Manute Bol: An Appreciation for a Special Blessing


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“Remember Manute Bol? He was the tallest person to ever play in NBA, for 10 seasons. He could touch the rim without jumping—so tall (it is written) that the average man stands eye level to his belly button. The only player in the history of the NBA to record more blocked shots than points, and the second highest blocks per game average.

On June 19, 2010 Manute—translated “special blessing”—passed away. He died from doing what he loved, not basketball, but, aiding his country. He lived what could be described as a humble life, and gave all he could—literally—to help the people of Sudan. When he was fined for missing preseason games he was hurt; he missed the “exhibition games” because he was in Washington D.C. for peace talks….”

Author: Wim Laven, teacher with a graduate degree in Conflict Resolution
Published in: My Journal Courier from Jacksonville, Illinois (see Myjournalcourier.com)
Date: June 22, 2010

For the full article:
Manute Bol: An Appreciation for a Special Blessing
(494 words)
by Wim Laven

Remember Manute Bol? He was the tallest person to ever play in NBA, for 10 seasons. He could touch the rim without jumping—so tall (it is written) that the average man stands eye level to his belly button. The only player in the history of the NBA to record more blocked shots than points, and the second highest blocks per game average.

On June 19, 2010 Manute—translated “special blessing”—passed away. He died from doing what he loved, not basketball, but, aiding his country. He lived what could be described as a humble life, and gave all he could—literally—to help the people of Sudan. When he was fined for missing preseason games he was hurt; he missed the “exhibition games” because he was in Washington D.C. for peace talks. One would think bringing peace to a wartorn region more important than a game, but then again Lakers’ fans used winning as an excuse to set cars on fire, and break windows.

I once wrote to a friend: “I sit here in Sri Lanka, a country on the verge of war, and the truth is I cannot give up the life I am used to. I do not feel alive at all anymore, I feel afraid and hopeless. To be true I feel completely lost. I spend so many nights crying because I can’t help. I listened for hours tonight about the failures to make a difference.” My friend responded (in part): “[Sacrifice] is brutal and everyone knows that. Going there voluntarily rather than submitting to the theft of one’s conscience is a powerful statement that, by itself, only achieves inspiration of the masses, who actually have the nonviolent power to force change.” I’m aware of what it means and takes to make sacrifice; I’m also aware that my small story pales in comparison.

What Manute Bol did was not easy. Nor were the outcomes particularly just. One of the tragedies is that he was a true blessing to humanity; he spent most of his small fortune aiding people in need, but was valued mostly for his contributions on the court. Manute’s life is a challenge to each of us to consider our values—questions of fidelity and morality have to be more important than five championship rings or one’s greatness on the court or course. The more important tragedy is that his charity threatened his safety, and ultimately caused the illness that led to his death. He contracted a fatal skin disease in Sudan. But, giving as much as he could was the only choice in his eyes:

“It was 1991. This was the first time I had seen Sudan on TV and I saw it – the Sudan government were killing my people. I say no. This cannot be right. I have to do something, you know? I decided to be a fighter. I feel I made a lot of money. I should give it back to my people.”

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Wim Laven is a teacher holding a graduate degree in Conflict Resolution.