Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Jimmy Durante Salute to...MANUTE BOL

He wasn't shaped like a bowl, and was the opposite of minute. Manute Bol (October 16, 1962 - June 19, 2010) was one of the tallest players in NBA history. A star center with the Washington Bullets, the Sudan native was 7 and a half feet tall. He had little basketball skills beyond blocking the opponents from scoring, but he did that exceedingly well. In his rookie season, 1985, he blocked an incredible 397 shots. He was the only player in NBA history to have blocked more shots than he scored.

A few years later, just to make it a freak show, the Washington Bullets acquired Muggsy Bogues, who was only 5 foot three. They had the shortest and tallest men in the league.

Bol was the epitome of the "gentle giant." He was a smiling, easy-going fan favorite. Well, smiling with false teeth. He grew up during still-primitive times in Africa, and though the boy was raised a Christian (and had trouble with the Muslim-dominated Sudanese government for a while) he participated in ritual puberty ceremonies that involved adding scars to his head and smacking out a bunch of his teeth.

He moved to Khartoum where he first learned to play basketball…and deal with ethnic insults. A basketball scout managed to bring him to America where he attended the University of Bridgeport and was eventually signed by the Bullets. He was a credible player in the NBA for ten years, and spent most of his money on African charities for refugees and those experiencing genocide.

The photo on this page is from the "True Hero" organization,, where you can read about "The Manute Bol Project." In part: "At the beginning of this project over 300 students learned under a tree, and during the rainy season that lasts from May through October, there is no school. Manute Bol, former NBA player, has promised to build a primary school in his home village of Turalei. As a sign of reconciliation for all Sudan, Manute's school will welcome both Darfurian children as well as Southern Sudanese children. Manute Bol has given most of his NBA earnings to help the people of Turalei…"

His death was not related to his height, so much as a skin condition. He died of complications from Stevens-Johnson syndrome. By way of a salute to Manute, your download is a song recorded by Jimmy Durante. Why this song, you ask? Simple enough. Manute Bol was a member of the Sudan's Dinka tribe. When the Washington Bullets pondered taking a chance and signing the oddly-sized athlete, a sportswriter insisted, "If you can ink a Dinka, do!"

JIMMY DURANTE inka dinka doo

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