News / Africa

Dignitaries, Friends Say Farewell to NBA's Manute Bol

Manute Bol's casket lies at the Washington National Cathedral during funeral services for the late NBA star, 29 Jun 2010
Manute Bol's casket lies at the Washington National Cathedral during funeral services for the late NBA star, 29 Jun 2010

A funeral was held on Tuesday for former National Basketball Association star Manute Bol at Washington's National Cathedral.  The towering shot blocker from southern Sudan was remembered more for his off-the-court humanitarianism than for his on-the court play.

In death as in life, Manute Bol towered above others.  His specially made 2.44-meter-long casket was covered in a white pall emblazoned with red crosses as it was wheeled into the massive gothic cathedral.

Bol died on June 19 at age 47 from kidney failure brought on by a skin condition attributed to medical care he received while traveling in his native Sudan.

Bol joined the Washington Bullets, now called the Wizards, in 1985.  By the time he retired 10 seasons later, Bol had amassed 2,086 blocked shots and 1,599 points - the only NBA player with more blocks than points scored.

Rory Sparrow, the NBA's vice president of Player Development, told mourners that not even Michael Jordan was able to intimidate the smiling Dinka tribesman.

Rory Sparrow, NBA VP of Player Development speaks at Manute Bol's funeral at the Washington National Cathedral, 29 Jun10
Rory Sparrow, NBA VP of Player Development speaks at Manute Bol's funeral at the Washington National Cathedral, 29 Jun10

"I remember one time when we were teasing him at one game.  I was playing for the [Chicago] Bulls and I was teasing him about what Michael Jordan was going to do to him," he said.  "And he just laughed and he said, 'What Michael Jordan?  Why should I be afraid of Michael Jordan?  I kill lion.  He come in, I block his shot.'  And sure enough, he blocked his shot.  Michael made a couple of dunks, but hey, Manute stood his ground," said Sparrow.

Bol was later traded to Golden State.  He later played for Philadelphia and Miami before returning to Washington.  His highest NBA salary was $1.5 million per year.  While in Washington, he often protested at the Sudanese Embassy to draw attention to his home country's civil war.  When he returned to Sudan in 1998, Bol supported a large extended family.  He gave more than $3.5 million to a Dinka-led rebel group in Southern Sudan, and later lost his fortune, and was forced to sell his house and possessions.  A political dispute left him in virtual exile in his country.

By 2001, Bol was almost destitute.  He sometimes appeared in promotional stunts, such as a boxing match against former Chicago Bears defensive lineman William "Refrigerator" Perry to raise funds for his homeland.  He said at the time he did it to save people's lives, not for the money.

Bol was later admitted to the United States as a religious refugee where his rent in Connecticut was paid by a Catholic charity.  The former NBA star was nearly killed in a 2003 car accident.  But Bol's experiences led him to rededicate himself to helping others, particularly children and the dispossessed in Sudan. His goal was to build 41 schools across the country.

Alec Khoc, Southern Sudan's ambassador to the United States, pays tribute to late NBA star Manute Bol during funeral services at the Washington National Cathedral, 29 Jun 2010
Alec Khoc, Southern Sudan's ambassador to the United States, pays tribute to late NBA star Manute Bol during funeral services at the Washington National Cathedral, 29 Jun 2010

Akec Khoc, Sudan's ambassador to the United States, said Bol did not dwell on his setbacks.  Instead, he showed kindness to everyone.

"He gave his time to children, to the poor, to the displaced, to the helpless, to the sick everywhere," he said.

Manute Bol later moved from Connecticut to Kansas, where he lived in recent years.  Kansas Senator Sam Brownback said that the quiet, towering basketball star was not preoccupied with his own wealth, fame or misfortune.  He said Bol's concern was helping the poor and needy, and reconciling former enemies in his native country.

"I can't think of a person that I know of in the world that used their celebrity status for a greater good than what Manute Bol did.  He used it for his people, he gave his life for his people," said Brownback.

Manute Bol worked with Sudan Sunrise, which seeks to help bring about reconciliation between Christians, animists and Muslims in Southern Sudan.   

Sudan Sunrise founder, Reverend Canon Tom Prichard, says Bol's work to reconcile former enemies lives on.

"Manute's legacy and vision of education and reconciliation, his determination to grow grassroots reconciliation - whether that reconciliation is expressed in a country that divides or holds together, wherever the boundary lines are drawn.  Manute stood for grassroots reconciliation," said Prichard.

Manute Bol's family patriarch, Bol Bol Chol, praised his nephew's efforts to bring about reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in Sudan - including Darfurians, who, he said, killed as many as 250 of Bol's relatives.   

"This man is not an ordinary man.  I believe this man is a messenger like others messengers who were sent into this world - to do something in this world.  He has accomplished most of his mission, and so God took him and left the rest of the work to be done by others," said Chol.

Manute Bol's remains will be flown to Sudan where they will be interred near his grandfather in a family cemetery.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid