Monday, March 13, 2006

Manute Bol; one hell of a man

The current Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel features a Frank Deford piece on former NBA giant Manute Bol. A 7'6" Dinka tribesman from Sudan, Bol made a splash during his pro career. However, Bol's story doesn't end on the court.

Bol spent almost his entire NBA fortune assisting Sudanese rebels fighting against the Islamist ruling regime. During the early to mid 90s, Bol and a cousin spent countless hours lobbying for aid to the cause of their people and warning Washington of the threat posed by Islamic extremism at a time most Americans paid it little attention.

In 1996, he moved to Uganda to more closely monitor the Sudanese situation. In 1997 he accepted an offer from the Sudanese government to help establish a peace-coalition government. He soon found he was duped. The Arabs in charge wanted the rebel forces to join with government troops to fight their own people and also insisted that Bol convert to Islam. He refused and found himself placed under a type of house arrest. The government would not allow him to leave. By 2001, he managed to bribe his way out of Sudan and landed in Egypt just in time for the 9/11 attacks. In Egypt he endured beatings for being a black Christian and was arrested when his visa ran out. He eventually made it back to the US as a refugee.

Once back, he encountered domestic trouble and also suffered severe injuries in a taxi accident. He lay in a coma for a few weeks and ended up with among other injuries three broken vertabrae in his neck. The ordeal left him owing $200,000 in medical bills. Some old NBA friends covered for him by putting together a fantasy basketball camp to raise the money. Since then, Bol has encountered legal troubles over more domestic disputes.

I hope Bol can get things straightened out. He stands out as a great man in my perspective. You may not call him one hell of a basketball player, but you can call him one hell of a man.

Here's a transcript from a 2002 ESPN "Outside the Lines" feature on Bol. Here's an interesting post wishing Bol well after the accident. Of all places it's the blog of hockey reporter Eric McErlain. Bol appeared at a party to help McErlain raise money for Sudanese refugees in Canada. The Round Mound of Rebound Charles Barkley voices his admiration for Bol in both posts.

Update: I got a comment from McErlain pointing out that Bol helped out on behalf of Jim McCarthy, who posted the link above on McErlain's blog.


Anonymous Eric McErlain said...

Actually, that was a guest post from my friend Jim McCarthy, who is a long-time supporter of the lost boys. Jim does a lot of pro bono work just like this, and he rightly deserves the credit for it.

Anonymous Glenn said...

Thanks for setting me straight. Like your blog.


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