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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora