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Manute Bol, NBA basketball player, dies at 47

Matt Schudel

The Washington Post has learned that Manute Bol, the 7-foot-7 Sudanese giant who was a shot-blocking sensation with the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors and other teams in the National Basketball Association, has died at 47.

He died at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville of complications from Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare skin condition contracted after a reaction to a medication he had taken in Africa. He had kidney failure, internal bleeding and other medical complications.

Mr. Bol, who, it can be safely said, was the only NBA player to have killed a lion with a spear, came to the United States in the early 1980s and joined the Washington Bullets after playing one year of college basketball. He was freakishly tall and thin, yet he had an amazing ability to block opponents' shots and twice led the NBA in that category.

During and after his NBA career, he tried to draw international attention to the humanitarian needs of his native Sudan, supporting rebel political movements and trying to bring peace to his embattled homeland.

Manute Bol was one of the NBA's most colorful players and encountered many problems because of his size. He became so tired of people asking, "How's the weather up there?" that he began to respond -- and Washingtonians will get this reference -- "Who do I look like, Bob Ryan?"

He was so tall that he could reach the steering wheel of a car from the back seat without leaning forward. After he learned to drive, he had an SUV specially built with, in essence, its front seat removed. He opened a nightclub in D.C. and spent much of his NBA income on improving life in his native Sudan.

In the end, he left his country as something of a politcal exile and returned to the United States, living his final years in Olathe, Kan.

Charles Barkley, who was Manute's teammate with the Philadelphia 76ers, had one of the kindest and most perceptive comments about an athlete I've ever read or heard: "You know, a lot of people feel sorry for him, because he's so tall and awkward. But I'll tell you this -- if everyone in the world was a Manute Bol, it's a world I'd want to live in."

Leave your memories of Manute below.

By Matt Schudel  |  June 19, 2010; 3:03 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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Sad to hear that Manute Bol has passed away. My best to his family and friends.

Posted by: hessone | June 19, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Sad to hear.

Posted by: rlj1 | June 19, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

How sad. RIP, Manute. I pray God's peace to his family and friends.

Posted by: LuvMySkinz | June 19, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I remember when Manute Bol hit a three in a game. That was an awesome sight.

All around good guy.

Posted by: DaleGribble | June 19, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

So sad! Rest in Peace Manute! We'll miss your humanity.

Posted by: numbers28 | June 19, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

The league could use more players like him...he never complained and played to the best of his abillities...The Bullets were blessed to have had him...

Posted by: pentagon40 | June 19, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Bol leaves nothing but fond memories. A man who tried his hardest. And did his best. And was always a Honorable and decent person. Other professional sports players can learn alot from how Mr. Bol conducted himself on and off the court.

Posted by: bobbo2 | June 19, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

I met Manute when he had his club 'Manute Bol's Spotlight' on U St. Very cool and down to earth, I kept goin' back, it was always a goodnight when he was there! May God rest his soul.

Posted by: tman2 | June 19, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

We always loved you in Washington and were proud to have you on our team.

Posted by: wcasey1 | June 19, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

The world has lost both a legendary basketball player and a great humanitarian today. Please learn more about the devastating allergic reaction that took his life. Stevens Johnson Syndrome can occur from virtually any drug, at any age, to anyone.

Posted by: nitesdaydreamer | June 19, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

We are very sorrowful about death the beloved one Manut Bol. The people of Sudan are very giving their condolence to the deceased family and to those who have devoted their time to support Manut during his struggling with his sickness. to send us your condolence to sudanese local community you can so by going to
Thank You.

Posted by: Southern-Sudan | June 19, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

A friend and I once played guitar on the street outside of his club. He came out and one point, smiled at us and threw a $20 bill in my guitar case. Needless to say, we were his biggest fans. RIP.

Posted by: twasneva | June 19, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

He gave excitement to Washington when he joined the Wizards. I enjoyed watching him play. I saw him a few times on U street, getting into a very long Mercedes. His height was overwhelming. God bless you Manute Bol, my prayers to your family.

Posted by: truthseeker101 | June 19, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

We wish to offer our most sincere and heartfelt condolences to the immediate family, relatives, associates and many worldwide friends of MANUTE BOL upon his departure from the scene ...

Often referred to as " The Human Stick Figure ", he may not have been the greatest or even the most graceful NBA player of his era although he tried hard and made a difference as he was the NBA shot blocking leader twice ...

A humanitarian, after retiring, he tried to make a difference in his native country of Sudan where hopefully his efforts to build some schools will proceed ahead.

Posted by: COLONEL77 | June 19, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I met Manute in Vegas and was definitely a lot friendlier than many other NBA players. My favorite Manute memory is when he nailed 6 three pointers in one HALF. He was impressed I remembered his Bullets career highlights... He told me he was just feelin it that night.

Posted by: Barno1 | June 19, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I walked into his nightclub one afternoon just to check it out and there's Manute changing a light bulb. Anyone else would have needed a ladder, but he reached up, almost to the ceiling, and changed the bulb with ease. Lol.

Posted by: Supporter51 | June 19, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

I was travellng through Dulles airport earlier this year in January and saw Manute Bol walking through the United Terminal (C Gates). He walked very slowly, looked old and apeared to be in great pain. It was an image that stuck in my mind. I felt so sorry for this kind and generous man - just seeing the pain he was in was enough to move you. I am truly sorry he has passed but know he was suffering and hope he is now at peace. He has done enormously great things for his countrymen and so many, many others - his heart knew no bounds. God rest you and keep you near Manute - the world has lost a wonderful man. Your legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of those you helped and knew you.

Posted by: whelms | June 19, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Big man. Big heart.

We can all learn from his attitude.

And a nod to Charles Barkley, who is capable of class, himself, though he hides it all too often.

Posted by: WylieD | June 19, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

A good man gone too soon.

Peace, Manute.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | June 19, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Polar opposite Of Al Haynesworth. This Man went back to his homeland and often spent almost all of his years pay to help his people. He will be missed. One Super Man. Thanks Manute.

Posted by: southportwave | June 19, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Polar opposite Of Al Haynesworth. This Man went back to his homeland and often spent almost all of his years pay to help his people. He will be missed. One Super Man. Thanks Manute.

Posted by: southportwave | June 19, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I have a fond and unforgetable memory of watching Manute play as a Bullet when I was a teenager. We all remember what a horrible free throw shooter Manute was. Well this one game against the 76ers, they decided the way to get Manute off the court, was to foul him instantly every time the Bullets got the ball. Well, after a couple of fouls, everyone realized what was going on. It was basically an assualt on Manute's basketball dignity. Then Manute did the only thing he could possibly do to make them stop. He started sinking foul shots. 2 in a row, 4 in a row, now the Cap Centre is going nuts. 6 in a row, 8 in a row. The roof is coming down now. 76ers call time out... And cease with the fouling. The Bullets won the game. I never forgot watching that game, and I have been a Manute fan ever since. RIP Mr. Bol.

Posted by: snorduke | June 19, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

As usual we honor those who deserve it most after they are gone , but Nute was one of the all around good and decent people to ever put on a basketball unifrom - we shall miss him.

Posted by: jpb0914 | June 19, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

As usual we honor those who deserve it most after they are gone , but Nute was one of the all around good and decent people to ever put on a basketball unifrom - we shall miss him.

Posted by: jpb0914 | June 19, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

God bless Manute.

Posted by: dezlboy1 | June 19, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Bol's selfless pursuit of peace in his homeland stands as a far greater memorial than what he accomplished on the court. We should all take a lesson from his compassion and humanity. His was a life lived well, though much too short measured in years.

Posted by: kanlaw81 | June 19, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

Manute Bol was a fixture on the Bullets when I was in elementary and middle school here. I'll never forget one of the first episodes I watched of Arsenio Hall - he was the last guest, but clearly the one Arsenio was most excited about, and the crowd too. He told a story that his Sudanese passport listed him as being 5'2" - because he was on the other side of a glass window at the passport office with the heights written on the wall, and the passport officer didn't realize he was sitting down through the whole process!
A great man who lived life fully, and had a rare sense of humility for a professional athlete. RIP.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | June 19, 2010 11:33 PM | Report abuse

I remember going to a press conference on 17th St introducing Manute Bol.I also recall going to a game that season where he was called for "Bol tending."The team was mediocre,but he was so much fun to watch.The Bullets went from being the worst shot blocking team in the NBA to setting a record.

Posted by: seanmg | June 19, 2010 11:43 PM | Report abuse

I am sad to hear the news of the passing of such a sweet man. I could have sworn I saw him once in front of his shop on U St, it had to be him, who else looks like him? I only wish he had a better foul shot when he was with the Bullets. I remember a game where the Hawks kept fowling him at the end (they were trailing) to stop the clock and get the ball back - it worked.

Posted by: arotnemer | June 20, 2010 6:19 AM | Report abuse

Sad that in a world of 24/7 news on 100 channels, the plight of a man like Manute can just slip through the cracks. Like many others, I wish I had known, and I wish the NBA could have done something to ease his pain as death approached.

His years were short, but his life was meaningful. Did he leave behind a worthy legacy? Slam dunk he did.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Bol.

Posted by: howjensen | June 20, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

My condolences to all of our family. I live in the US and was adopted. I'm sorry we never met.

Adut and Amach Bol

Posted by: meemersmom2 | June 20, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Condolences to all of our family. I wish we could have met..Adopted in the US, but we are still family.

Adut Bol

Posted by: meemersmom2 | June 20, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I loved watching Manute Bol play with the Bullets, especially when Spud Webb was also on the team. The tallest and smallest together.

Posted by: ruthoutspoken | June 20, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I remember MJ commenting in an interview that he put 3 or 4 moves on Manute and realized that Manute never left his feet. The result was a ball stuffed in MJ's face.
A great man who will be sorely missed by all those who knew him

Posted by: vasco44 | June 20, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

I remember Manute as a great player; I had a lot of respect for him coming to this country and adapting to the NBA...

Posted by: jbjesus | June 21, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

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