Manute Bol (/məˈnuːt ˈboʊl/; October 16, 1962 – June 19, 2010) was a South Sudanese-born basketball player and political activist. At 7 ft 7 in (2.31 m) tall, he was one of the tallest men ever to play in the National Basketball Association, along with Gheorghe Mureşan.
Legendary NBA`s tallest player Manute Bol

He was officially measured and listed at 7 feet, 6 3/4 inches tall in the Guinness Book of World Records. He is believed to have been born on October 16, 1962 in either Turalei or Gogrial, South Sudan. He was the son of a Dinka tribal elder who gave him the name "Manute", which means "special blessing."

MANUTE BOL 2009: Bol, pictured here relaxing in the southern Sudanese capital of Juba, died on Saturday of kidney failure.

In Jordan Conn book about Bol "The Defender", the author writes: "Bol lived a life befitting a man of such an outsized body. At any given moment, you could find him on a basketball court or a television screen, in a congressional meeting or a war zone, in a hut or a mansion. He sometimes gambled. He often boozed. No matter the backdrop, he always worked to ensure that those around him were happy. In time his bonds with teammates on the court, winning games and entertaining fans, would be replaced by one with a young man from his war-torn village, fighting to educate their people and free their homeland. But every moment, he was meticulously crafting the legend of Manute Bol.
South Sudanese and Dinka-born Manute Bol and his pal Spud Webb

Not everyone bought the lion story. When Bol played for the Philadelphia 76ers in the early 90s, his teammate Charles Barkley walked into the locker room one day saying that he’d just read about the lion feat in a newspaper. Barkley looked across the room at Bol. “Man, you didn’t kill no lion,” he said. “That lion was old and dead when you showed up.”
Teammates laughed and waited for Bol’s response, but he neither confirmed nor denied the accusation. In the locker room, he wasn’t a cattle tender; he wasn’t an African; he was a basketball player. “Fuck you, Charles Barkley,” he said.
Bol and his pal Spud Webb

Bol played basketball for many teams over his career. He played for two colleges and four NBA teams. A center, he was known as a specialist player; he was considered among the best shot-blockers in the history of the sport, but other aspects of his game were considered fairly weak. Over the course of his career he blocked more shots than he scored points. He is second all-time in NBA history in terms of average shots blocked per game, and ranks 15th on the career blocks list.
Manute Bol was born to Madut and Okwok Bol in Turalei (or Gogrial) and raised near Gogrial. He came from a family of extraordinarily tall men and women: "My mother was 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m), my father 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), and my sister is 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m)", he said. "And my great-grandfather was even taller — 7 ft 10 in (2.39 m)." His tribe, the Dinka, and the Nilotic people of which they are a part, are among the taller populations of the world. Bol's hometown, Turalei, is the origin of other exceptionally tall individuals, including 7 ft 4 in (2.24 m) basketballer Ring Ayuel. Ayuel is a refugee from civil war which broke out soon after Bol emigrated to the US and which eventually led to the destruction of most of Turalei.
Manute Bol

He tended his family's cattle in boyhood. According to a tale he was often asked to repeat in interviews, he once killed a lion with a spear while working as a cowherd. He started playing basketball only at about age 15.
Manute Bol and his pal

Complementing his great height, Bol possessed exceptionally long limbs (inseam 49 inches (120 cm)), large hands and feet (size 161/2). His arm span, at 8 feet 6 inches (2.59 m), is (as of 2013) the longest in NBA history, and his reach was 10 feet 5 inches (3.18 m). He was extremely slender, limiting his offensive capability.

                          Manute Bol at a supermarket

When he arrived in the United States, he weighed 180 pounds (82 kg) and added a little under 20 pounds (9.1 kg) by the time he entered the NBA. The Washington Bullets sent Bol to strength training with University of Maryland coach Frank Costello, where he initially could lift only 45 pounds (20 kg) on 10-rep bench press and 55 pounds (25 kg) on 10-rep squat (his BMI was 15.3 and he initially had a 31" (80 cm) waist)
He started playing football (soccer) in 1972 but abandoned the game because he was too tall. During his later teens, Bol started playing basketball, playing in Sudan for several years with teams in Wau and Khartoum, where he experienced racial hatred from the northern Sudanese majority. While still living in Sudan, Bol apparently held an $80-a-month (1983 U.S. $) job in the Sudanese military and played on the national team. Coach Don Feeley from Fairleigh Dickinson University saw Bol play basketball in Khartoum and convinced him to go to the United States. Bol was drafted by the San Diego Clippers in the 5th round of the 1983 NBA Draft (97th overall), but the league ruled that Bol had not been eligible for the draft and declared the pick invalid.
Manute Bol and his team-mate Spud Webb

He was then invited to Cleveland by Cleveland State University head basketball coach Kevin Mackey, but he didn't speak or write English very well at the time. He was unable to improve his English-language skills after months of classes at ELS Language Centers on the Case Western Reserve University campus, and never played a game for Cleveland State. Five years later, Cleveland State was placed on two years' probation for providing improper financial assistance to Bol and two other African players.
manute bol

 He enrolled at the University of Bridgeport, a Division II basketball school, and played college basketball for the Purple Knights there in the 1984-1985 season. He averaged 22.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 7.1 blocks per game. The team, which previously drew 500-600 spectators, routinely sold out the 1,800 seat gym. This was followed by a short stint with the Rhode Island Gulls of the USBL
Measuring Manute Bol

Going into the 1985 NBA Draft, scouts felt that Bol needed another year or two of college, but Bol opted for the draft because he felt that it was the only way to get his sister out of Sudan, which was in a state of political unrest at the time. In 1985, Bol was drafted as the seventh pick in the second round by the Washington Bullets (31st overall). He played in the NBA for ten years, from 1985–1995, spending parts of four seasons with the Bullets, parts of three with the Golden State Warriors, parts of four with the Philadelphia 76ers and part of one season with the Miami Heat. In 1987, the Bullets drafted the 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) point guard Muggsy Bogues, pairing the tallest and shortest players in the league on the court for one season.
Manute Bol

Washington Bullets
Bol's first tenure with the Bullets lasted three seasons, from 1985 to 1988. In his rookie season (1985-1986), he appeared in 80 games and recorded a career-high 5.0 blocks per game. His total of 397 blocks set the NBA rookie record, and remains the second-highest single-season total in league history behind Mark Eaton's 456 rejections in 1984-85.

Golden State Warriors
Bol's first tenure with the Golden State Warriors lasted for two seasons, from 1988 to 1990. It was in his first season with Golden State that he first attempted three-point shots with regularity. In that season, he shot a career-high 91 three-pointers and made 20 of them. At that time he may have helped to popularize the expression "my bad", although a 2005 suggestion that he coined the phrase has been discounted.
Bol and Spud Webb

Philadelphia 76ers
Bol's first tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers lasted for three seasons, from 1990 to 1993. Although he played in a career-high 82 games in his first season as a 76er, his production began to decline afterward (in both games played and per-game statistics). After playing in all 82 games in 1990-1991, he played in 71 games the next season, and in 58 (a career low at the time) games the following season. But in his last season in Philadelphia he had a memorable night playing against former teammate Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns, hitting 6 of 12 three-pointers, all in the second half in a losing effort. Fans were known to yell out "shoot" as soon as Bol touched the ball when he was far from the basket.

Miami Heat
Bol played in eight games in the 1993-1994 season with the Miami Heat, the only team that never put him in the starting lineup. He scored only a two-point field goal with the team and blocked 6 shots in 61 total minutes.

Washington Bullets (2nd stint)
Bol's second stint with the Bullets lasted only two games, in 1993-1994. Thereafter he was signed not as a player but to help develop 7 ft 7 teammate Gheorghe Mureşan.

Philadelphia 76ers (2nd stint)
Bol's second stint with the 76ers lasted for four games, near the end of the 1993-1994 season, helping to mentor 7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) teammate Shawn Bradley. In only 49 minutes, he played more aggressively than he did earlier in the season with Miami and Washington. He scored 6 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and blocked 9 shots.

Golden State Warriors (2nd stint)
Bol's final NBA stop was with the 1994-1995 Warriors. He made the season opening roster and played in what would be his five final NBA games. On a memorable night in the middle of November, Bol finally made his home debut, coming off of the bench to play 29 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He intimidated and blocked his usual shots and grabbed his usual rebounds.

That night, however, served as a "blast from the past" when he went back to shooting three-pointers as he did in the late 1980s, connecting on all three of them (each of them several steps behind the three-point line). The crowd, in disbelief, cheered louder and louder with each shot he took. Seven nights later in Charlotte, in a game that was nationally televised by TNT, he was in the starting lineup again. By this time, two weeks into the season, his career seemed rejuvenated under Warrior head coach Don Nelson: he was again a defensive force, making threes and contributing as a starter to create matchup problems. But after playing only ten minutes against the Hornets on November 22, 1994, he suffered what proved to be a career-ending injury and never played in the NBA again. Before he left that last game, he recorded a block and two points and attempted a three-pointer in ten minutes of play. He missed all but 5 games his last season due to a knee injury.
He was released by the Milwaukee Bucks in October 1995 without ever taking the court.

Shot blocking
With his great height and very long limbs, Bol was one of the league's most imposing defensive presences, blocking shots at an unprecedented rate. Along with setting the rookie shot blocking record in 1985-86, over the course of his career Bol tied for the NBA record for the most blocked shots in one half (eleven) and in one quarter (eight, twice). On January 31, 1992, in a game against the Orlando Magic, he blocked four consecutive shots within a single possession. Throughout his career, he blocked a shot an average of every 5.6 minutes of playing time.
However, Bol's other basketball skills were very limited, and his rail-thin physique made it difficult for him to establish position against the league's bulkier centers and power forwards. The sight of the tall, gangly Bol spotting up for a three-pointer during blow-outs became a fan favorite. Off the court, he established a reputation as a practical joker; Charles Barkley, a frequent victim of his pranks, attested to Bol's sense of humor. Bol also developed a close friendship with teammate Chris Mullin and named one of his sons after him.

Career accomplishments
Over the course of his career, Bol averaged 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 3.3 blocks per game while only playing an average of 18.7 minutes per game. Bol finished his career with totals of 1,599 points, 2,647 rebounds, and 2,086 blocks, having appeared in 624 games over 10 seasons. As of 2010, Manute Bol remains:

First in career blocks per 48 minutes (8.6), almost 50% beyond second-place Mark Eaton (5.8).
Second in career blocks-per-game average (3.34).
Fourteenth in total blocked shots (2,086).
The only player in NBA history to block more shots than points scored, blocking 2,086 shots and scoring 1,599 points.

After the end of his NBA career, Bol played 22 games for the Florida Beach Dogs of the Continental Basketball Association during the 1995-1996 season. In 1996, the Portland (Maine) Mountain Cats of the United States Basketball League announced that he would be playing with the team, and included him in the game program, but he never actually appeared in uniform. He then played professionally in Italy in 1997 and had a stint Qatar in 1998 before rheumatism forced him to retire permanently.
Manute Bol

Bol was very active in charitable causes throughout his career. In fact, he said he spent much of the money he made during a 10-year NBA career supporting various causes related to the war-ravaged nation of his birth, Sudan.

                              Political and humanitarian activist, Manute Bol

He frequently visited Sudanese refugee camps, where he was treated like royalty. In 2001 Bol was offered a post as minister of sport by the Sudanese government. Bol, who was a Christian, refused because one of the pre-conditions was converting to Islam. Later Bol was hindered from leaving the country by the Sudanese government, who accused him of supporting the Dinka-led Christian rebels, the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

 The Sudanese government refused to grant him an exit visa unless he came back with more money. Assistance by supporters in the United States, including Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, raised money to provide Bol with plane tickets to Cairo, Egypt. After 6 months of negotiations with U.S. consulate officials regarding refugee status, Bol and his family were finally able to leave Egypt and return to the United States.

In the 1990s, Bol tried to warn the US, which included visiting the Pentagon, meeting with 58 members of Congress, and the State Department, of the rising threat of Islamic fundamentalism generally and of Osama bin Laden, specifically, who had been given safe-haven by the Sudanese government in the early-mid-1990s. He said that his concerns were dismissed.

Bol established the Ring True Foundation in order to continue fund-raising for Sudanese refugees. He gave most of his earnings (an estimated $3.5 million) to their cause. In 2002, Fox TV agreed to broadcast the telephone number of his Ring True Foundation in exchange for Bol's agreement to appear on their Celebrity Boxing show. After the referee goaded, "If you guys don't box, you won't get paid", he scored a third-round victory over former football player William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

In the fall of 2002, Bol signed a one-day contract with the Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League. Even though he could not skate, the publicity generated by his single game appearance helped raise money to assist children in Sudan. Bol once suited up as a horse jockey for similar reasons.

Bol was involved in the April 2006 Sudan Freedom Walk, a three-week march from the United Nations building in New York to the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. The event was organized by Simon Deng, a former Sudanese swimming champion (currently a lifeguard at Coney Island) who was a longtime friend of Bol. Deng, who was a slave for three years from the age of nine, is from another tribe in Southern Sudan. His Sudan Freedom Walk is especially aimed at finding a solution to the genocide in Darfur (western Sudan), but it also seeks to raise awareness of the modern day slavery and human rights abuses throughout Sudan. Bol spoke in New York at the start of the Walk, and in Philadelphia at a rally organized by former hunger striker Nathan Kleinman.

Bol was also an advocate for reconciliation efforts and worked to improve education in South Sudan. A Nicholas Kristoff article in The New York Times highlighted this belief and Bol’s work for reconciliation and education with an organization called Sudan Sunrise. Bol first began working with Sudan Sunrise to raise awareness on issues of reconciliation in 2005. This included speaking at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC and subsequently partnering with Sudan Sunrise to build schools across South Sudan that, in the spirit of reconciliation, would enroll students regardless of tribe or religion.

During his time in Egypt, Bol ran a basketball school in Cairo. One of his pupils was a fellow Sudanese refugee; Chicago Bulls player Luol Deng, the son of a former Sudanese cabinet minister. Deng later moved to the United States to further his basketball career, continuing a close relationship with Bol.
Life after basketball
Despite initially knowing little English and an absence of awareness regarding Western culture, Bol adjusted and was widely regarded as a well-rounded personality who was curious and well-read. He developed a strong friendship with Charles Barkley, who remarked, "If everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it's a world I'd want to live in. He's smart. He reads The New York Times. He knows what's going on in a lot of subjects. He's not one of these just-basketball guys". He spoke Dinka and Arabic before mastering English
After a political dispute in Sudan, Bol was admitted to the United States as a religious refugee in 2002 and settled in West Hartford, Connecticut. In July 2004, he was seriously injured in a car accident, when he was ejected from a taxi that hit a guardrail and overturned, resulting in a broken neck. The driver was under the influence, with a suspended license. Because his fortunes were mostly donated to Sudan, he was financially ruined because he had no life or health insurance When he recovered from his injuries, he moved to Olathe, Kansas.
He was also the "Brand Ambassador" for Ethiopian Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines Journeys.
Bol and his wife Arjok Giugwol and their baby Bol Manute Bol in 2001

On June 19, 2010, Bol died from acute kidney failure and complications from Stevens–Johnson syndrome at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He was survived by 10 children, six with his first wife, Atong, and four with his second wife, Ajok. One of his sons with Ajok, Bol Bol, was a 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) tall 7th grader as of October 2012 and considered one of the better basketball prospects of his class.
After his death, tributes to Bol's basketball career and charitable works came from around the United States and the world.

His former teams, and the NBA, issued statements in recognition of his impact on the sport of basketball and on his native Sudan.
A salute to Bol took place on the floor of the United States Senate just a few days after his death.

Funeral service and tribute
The memorial service for Manute Bol was held on Tuesday, June 29, 2010, at 10:00 a.m. at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Bol's body lay in an eight-foot-long, specially built casket.
Bol was given tributes by United States Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas, Former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, Sudan's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Akec Khoc Acieu, Bol's Uncle, Mr. Bol Bol Choi, and Vice President of the National Basketball Association Rory Sparrow.
Sparrow remembered Bol as "a giant off the court" who should be remembered for humanitarian work and his basketball career.
                                      True Hero

Senator Brownback recalled that "He literally gave his life for his people. He went over (to Sudan), he was sick. He stayed longer than he should have. He probably contracted this ailment that took his life while in Sudan, and he didn’t have to do that. He was an NBA basketball player. He could have stayed here and had an easy life. I’ve never seen anybody use his celebrity status more nor give his life more completely to a group of people than Manute Bol did. It makes me look at efforts that I do as not enough."
Manute Bol and Sudanese musicians

Dr. Akec K.A. Khoc, Ambassador of Sudan to the U.S said that "Manute had a very great heart for his country and people. He did everything to support anybody in need of shoes, blankets, health service, food, and people who were struggling. He went to see them and to encourage them to continue their struggle for their rights, for their freedoms. Manute embodied everything we can think of in Sudan. Reconciling warring groups between the north and south, in Darfur he was working for reconciliation between Darfur and the south and between Darfur and the rest of Sudan. So Manute was a voice for hope."

Sudan Sunrise founder, 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."

Prichard went on to say "There's no question Manute gave his life for his country."
Manute Bol's family patriarch, Bol Bol Chol, said, "This man is not an ordinary man. I believe this man is a messenger like other 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."
A number of members of Bol's immediate family, including his sons, were at the service.
Manute Bol's remains were buried in Sudan

                               Arjok Genwol,wife of Manute Bol hugging a sympathiser

                               Arjok Gengwol wife of Manute Bol her husband`s funeral

Manute Bol: The ultimate defender

By Jordan Conn
The following is an excerpt from The Defender: Manute Bol's Journey from Sudan to the NBA and Back, a multimedia e-book published by The Atavist. Coming just over a year after the death of the former NBA player and humanitarian legend, and on the eve of the inaugural independence day for his homeland, Southern Sudan, Conn's extended account includes never-before-reported aspects of Bol's life. The full book is available here.
At 7-7, Manute Bol stood above the rest in the NBA, but it was his gentle personality that set him apart.
At 7-7, Manute Bol stood above the rest in the NBA, but it was his gentle personality that set him apart.
When 7-foot-7 Manute Bol opened the 1985 NBA season with the Washington Bullets, he played the game unlike anyone before or since, making the impossible look easy and the easy seem impossible. He set an NBA single-season rookie record with 397 blocks -- the second-highest total, for any player, in league history. "No one could shoot over him," says Tim Hardaway, who later played alongside Bol in Golden State. "We used to funnel guys toward Manute. You just couldn't understand how long he was until you got up close." On two separate occasions he blocked 15 shots in a single game.

And yet Bol tended to be an embarrassment on offense. He'd played only a single year of Division II college ball and struggled with the most routine plays, missing layups, bricking free throws, dropping the ball or allowing it to roll away between his legs.

 Several fingers on his right, shooting hand were disfigured, the result of a birth defect. "It looked like a claw," Bob Ferry, the general manager of the Bullets who drafted Bol, says. "He couldn't straighten his fingers, and that really hurt him." Bol soon became branded as a role player, a guy who could come in for a few minutes and block a few shots but never be a consistent starter. His playing time dwindled in his second and third seasons, and in 1988 Washington traded him to the Golden State Warriors.
In the fall of 1988, Bol arrived in Northern California to begin training camp. He settled into a modest home in Alameda, just outside of Oakland on the San Francisco Bay. Warriors coach Don Nelson had long coveted Bol's services. Nelson believed he could unlock the potential that a man of such size must inherently possess. One day shortly after arriving, Bol entered the gym with his teammates for a round of two-a-day practices. Some players were still working their way into playing shape, but Bol approached Nelson with a special request. "Coach," he said, "we have to end practice early today." When Nelson asked why, Bol informed him that an urgent matter had arisen: He had to get home because the cable guy was coming. Nelson laughed, considered the matter, and addressed his team: "Guys, we're not going to practice for long today. Nutie has to get cable at his house."
Moses Malone and Manute Bol in 1987Bol teamed with Moses Malone to make one of the most imposing big-man combos in the NBA. During his rookie season, Bol appeared in 80 games and averaged 5.0 blocks per game. He also set the NBA rookie record with 397 blocks.

"There's no way anyone else in the league would ask something like that," says Winston Garland, who played for the Warriors at the time. "And there's no way a coach would let anyone else get away with it." But Nelson loved Bol. He let him shoot three-pointers, giving Bol the green light if he was open during the Warriors' secondary fast break. Every time Bol fired a shot from long range, he broke a cardinal rule taught to big men on basketball courts around the world: Tall guys should stay close to the basket. Instead, the tallest of them all fired away, his arms jerking back and flinging forward, the ball launched as if from a catapult. The Warriors often ended practice by running a drill that finished with Bol shooting threes. Sometimes they would run the same drill at the beginning of practice. If Bol made his three-pointer, practice ended right then -- no further work necessary. In games, most of Bol's threes missed, but a few splashed through the net, inevitably followed by riotous applause. "Just a raggedy-ass jump shot," Rick Mahorn, who played for the Detroit Pistons at the time, describes it. "He'd make it, and you'd just have to look at him like, Ain't that a bitch?"

Though Bol came to love his jump shot -- "He started talking all kinds of s--- when he made jumpers, like he was a real ballplayer or something," Mahorn says -- Bol still made his money blocking shots. He turned would-be dunkers away and yelled at them not to try scoring on him again, adopting every shot blocker's favorite phrase: "Get that out of here!" Occasionally, however, opponents got the best of Bol. They would rise to dunk and he would rise with them, through skill, athleticism, or sheer luck the opponent would finish with a dunk over or around Bol's outstretched arms. "He hated to get embarrassed," says Garland, "so he was always coming up with excuses." Maybe another defender had missed his assignment, or maybe someone had blocked Bol's path to the rim, but always there was something or someone Bol could blame. Soon teammates took to calling him Mr. Alibi: the man with an explanation for everything.
One day in November 1988, the Warriors were playing the Chicago Bulls, and Michael Jordan caught the ball on the perimeter, then drove around his defender and skied for the rim. Bol and 7-4 teammate Ralph Sampson rose with him, the fiercest shot-blocking pair in the league taking on the best player in the history of the game. But Jordan kept climbing and then flushed the ball through the basket, sending Bol in a daze toward the bench, where teammates were laughing, eager to hear his excuse. "What happened?" they asked. In response, Bol uttered two words that Warriors players had never heard paired, joined together in a phrase that soon would become ubiquitous on blacktops across America. Eventually, legend would hold that Bol created this saying, though some linguists dispute that claim. Either way, when Bol delivered it in his rumbling, Dinka-inflected baritone, the Warriors players erupted as if they'd just heard the best joke of their lives.
"My bad," he said. "My bad."
               Bol in 2003
For the rest of the season, Warriors players said it whenever they made a mistake, always low and guttural in their best impression of Bol. When players were traded the phrase spread, and before long everyone across the league was saying "My bad."
Bol kept blocking shots and firing threes, and as fall turned to winter a pattern emerged at Warriors home games. Bol caught the ball outside the arc; the crowd screamed, "Shoot!" so he fired away; they gasped as it sailed through the air and then groaned if it missed or erupted if it swished, then went back to waiting for Bol to shoot again. He was still not a great player, nor even a particularly good one. But the crowd noise told you what the stat sheet could not: In the late 1980s, Bol was a star.

Because he was a star, Bol's phone rang often, bringing praise or requests, introducing him to people eager to be helped by his fame. And because he was a star, Bol was often unfit to answer the phone in the mornings -- another night out, another few rounds of Heineken or Beck's. Bol hated mornings. If a fan approached him at night or even in the afternoon, he would offer a smile, even grinning through jokes about his height if he was in the right mood. His natural friendliness was a source of pride, and he'd worked hard to become a cult figure and fan favorite, shaking hands and signing autographs. Mornings, however, were different. "At that time we flew commercial, so we always had to get up the morning after a game and go to the airport," says Hersey Hawkins, a former teammate. "People would always come up and want to talk to him, saying things like 'How does it feel to be so tall?' and he'd just say, 'Go away' and grumble something like, 'Stupid Americans.' We always laughed when people walked up to him, because we knew what was coming."
But early one morning late in 1988, Bol's phone rang persistently enough that he was forced to get up and answer it. He was grumpy, but he listened to the voice on the other end. The man on the phone spoke Dinka, the native tongue that Bol used home and with the other southern Sudanese who were scattered around the States. But most of them knew not to call so early, and in those days, calls from Sudan itself were rare. The charges were too expensive, the chances to use a phone too scarce.

Dinka or not, Bol had no patience for a man who'd dare interrupt his sleep. "Why are you calling me so early!" Bol yelled. "Don't you know that I am sleeping?" The man on the other end was unsympathetic. He'd called because militias were sweeping through southern Sudan, leaving villages burned and children orphaned, terrorizing anyone who stood in their way. "You are sleeping?" he fired back. "While you are sleeping our people are dying!"

Bol hung up, furious. Several weeks later, the man -- a representative of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, the southern Sudanese rebels --visited the Bay Area while traveling through the U.S. to gain support for his cause. When the caller arrived, Bol's cousin Nicola, whose family lived with Bol in Alameda, warned the man not to mention the phone conversation. And when the two met in person, Bol started coming around. He liked this guy -- liked his passion, his ideas. It took a little convincing, but eventually the SPLM rep prevailed. It was time, Bol decided, to join the fight.
The full book is available at


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