The Strange, Strange Story of Manute Bol
According to multiple sources, Manute Bol was born on October 16, 1962. Now, yesterday, all across the web, that date is being changed because it was found to be a fictional date. How can you have a fictional birthday changed when there's no new date to replace it with, you ask?
Good question. Manute Bol was born and raised in the country of Sudan. That is a fact. In the year 2017, the area of Bol's birth is now part of war-ravished South Sudan. South Sudan declared independence from the Sudan in 2011, one year after Bol's death. Despite that fact, Bol is arguably South Sudan's most famous citizen. If your head isn't spinning yet, just you wait, we're going to try to start from the very beginning. A very good place to start....
Manute was born into the Dinka Community in central Sudan. According to news breaking today, he may or may not have been born as early as 1935. The next fact in Bol's life is that he was in the military and played for the Sudanese National Basketball team. So Bol was between 20 and 48 when drafted by the San Diego Clippers in the 5th round of the 1983 NBA draft. Due to all sorts of language barriers and irregular paperwork, the pick was voided by the league and Manute Bol was free to play with the college of his choice.
It is here where the infamous Kevin Mackey comes into the story. Kevin Mackey became coach of Cleveland State University in 1983 and once on campus, he was a tireless recruiter and he scoured the world looking for future Vikings. Mackey came across Bol and, well, let's hear from Mackey himself:
"I gave him his birthday because they didn't know how old he was," said Mackey....Mackey had helped bring Bol to the U.S., but because the shot-blocking sensation struggled to speak English, he was ineligible to play for Cleveland State and ultimately went to Division II University of Bridgeport." Daily Mail 11-22-17 How much exactly did Mackey lie? From the same article in the Daily Mail: "Every athletic door is open at 19, every athletic door is closed when you're 35, "Mackey said. "He was probably 40, 50 years old when he was playing in the NBA." Mackey claims he worked with the Cleveland State immigration office to come up with a believable birth date for Bol.
So it's reasonable to estimate, that in 1983, the year Mackey had confirmed contact with Bol, revealed 5 years later by the NCAA when it put CSU on probation for its dealings with Bol, that he was PROBABLY born in 1950. "The Vikings might have won a national championship with Bol at the back of Mackey’s Run and Stun press—But then the NCAA,” Mackey says, “would’ve given me three death penalties.”- SI.com
Manute Bol did end up playing for Bridgeport and was drafted, again, in the 1985 NBA Draft. This time in the 2nd round, by the Washington Bullets, as a 35 (?) year old rookie. Meaning his NBA career stretched from age 36 to age 46 (?). Which would mean he surpassed Nate Hickey as the oldest player in NBA history, posthumously. Bol then played in the CBA, Italy, and Qatar, meaning he was nearly 50 (?!) when rheumatism claimed his career.
For a basketball player, measuring 7'7", that was almost a superhuman accomplishment. It also means, that he didn't die at 47, but PROBABLY at 60-ish. Too young, either way. His legacy today is twofold. First of all, Bol had 10 children and his son, Bol Bol is projected to be one of the top players in the Class of 2018. Other sons flirted with the NBA, but young Bol Bol has been described as having the highest professional ceiling, measuring 7'3" in height. Bol Bol was for sure born in 1999, meaning Bol was PROBABLY 49 at the time of his birth, but possible as old as 64.
And secondly, and more importantly, Manute Bol was tireless in his love for his native Sudan. Raising both awareness and dollars throughout his life, it has been estimated that the nearly $4 million dollars in career earnings went right back to help his native Sudan, and, don't forget, most proceeds from 2002's Celebrity Boxing Match against William "The Refrigerator" Perry did also.
Manute Bol was nearly Sudanese royalty, being Bol Chol's grandson. Bol Chol stood well over seven feet tall (Bol says 7 feet, 10 inches, but relatives in Sudan say that's exaggerated) and weighed more than 300 pounds. He was memorably rich as well, with more than 40 wives, more than 80 children and thousands of cattle. -Washington Post
And we have barely mentioned his actual basketball career. Manute Bol currently is the only player in the history of the NBA to have more blocked shots (2086) than points (1599). He holds the NBA record for the second most blocked shots in a season (397) in history for the 85-86 season. (Mark Eaton was first the previous season.) And despite being rail thin, Manute Bol was remarkably durable, playing all 82 games during the 1990-1991 season in Philadelphia. All the more impressive now, considering Basketball-Reference.com has him listed as a 28 year old that season and he was PROBABLY at least, 40. He also holds the record for most blocked shots in a 3-game playoff series with 18 in 1989. PROBABLY at the age of 49.
And we didn't even mention the time that Manute bragged he was not intimidated by NBA'ers, he had killed a lion. Or the time Jayson Williams claimed Bol never played a game sober. Or, well there's no delicate way to say it, but he had a giant penis, (listen at the 4:00 to 6:00 minute mark for more astounding details of Bol's manhood) and liked to show it off in the locker room.
Kevin Mackey, you love him and hate him all at the same time. If you're not familiar with Kevin Mackey (I'm a CSU Alumni), please read this excellent article called Asphalt Junkie by Scott Raab.
...and the funny thing is, way, way back in 1986, if Kevin Mackey had been successful in recruiting Manute Bol, instead of talking about CSU losing to Navy and David Robinson 71-70, we might be talking today about recruiting tarnishing the biggest Cinderella Story in college basketball history.
The Manute Bol led Cleveland State Vikings, NCAA Champs.