A lot of NBA fans still miss Manute Bol – the 7’7 giant that was one of the most unique NBA players ever. Bol passed away in 2010, and his son – the 6’10 Bol Bol aims to go the same road his father did.
“I’m trying to go to the NBA,” he says. “To help my family. Like my dad. ”
Bol Bol is currently 14 years old, band looks just like his father – same high cheeks, the same brown and lively eyes, and those hands that seem to stretch forever.
“Oh yeah, oh my god, I can’t believe it,” says Ajok Kuag, Manute’s widow and Bol’s mother. “He’s just Manute. Same thing. Same body, same everything. Everything is Manute. I know he’s my son, but he has nothing from me. He’s all Manute.”
Bol loves his father. He thinks about him often, and even four years after the funeral, the loss sometimes drives him to tears.
His father is the reason he plays basketball. He used to go to the gym with dad, and together they would ignore the strangers staring at the impossibly tall man with his impossibly tall son and shoot baskets together.
The truth is, Bol didn’t like basketball. Not at first, anyway. But his dad and older brothers — Bol has several older half-brothers and half-sisters who live with their mom in New Jersey — always wanted him to play. He likes it now.
Bol was born in South Sudan, and moved to Connecticut when he was 2 years old. When he was 7, he moved with his parents, three younger brothers and a younger sister to Olathe, where there is a large Southern Sudanese community.
Dad was a national hero to the Southern Sudanese, and it had little to do with basketball. Manute was tireless in pushing for a better life back in Sudan. He spent his entire basketball fortune and survived attacks on his life to save and educate people in and around Sudan.
Even while playing, he risked his life to help the Lost Boys and other refugees in war zones. He helped build schools and hospitals where those things are needed perhaps more than anywhere else in the world.
“He was always nice to anybody,” Bol Bol says. “He liked everybody, and he always liked to help people.”
Ajok says her son can get angry at times, just like dad, but you see a kind temperament on the court that mirrors Manute’s — more of the jokes and kindness that make Bol Bol closer with his teammates than the kind of edgy competitiveness that would make him closer to what his coaches want.
“I think he’s proud,” Ajok says. “People tell him all the time he looks like his dad, and he loves his dad so much. He cries about it sometimes. He wishes his dad was around. People tell him about his dad, and I think he loves it, because he’s proud of his dad.”
Bol Bol smiles when you ask. Yes, he’s watched videos of dad playing in the NBA. Dad is the only man in NBA history to average more blocks than points, and Bol Bol’s favorite clip is when dad blocked four shots in five seconds against the Orlando Magic.
Bol Bol is similar to his father physically — in sprints, Bol goes from free-throw line to half court in four steps, a distance that takes most of his teammates six — that it’s easy to think he’ll be a similar player.
The thing is, on the basketball court, Bol Bol will likely be very different than his dad. He’s skilled, particularly for a 14-year-old. He can handle the ball, those long hands are also soft with a touch around the basket, and every now and then you’ll see him put a behind-the-back pass into a teammate’s chest.
Manute Bol’s widow remembers asking her son if he wants to be like his dad one day.
“Yes,” she remembers him saying. “I’ll do the same thing to help people but I’m not going to do it like my dad did and spend all of his money. I will help, but I will save some for myself.”
The Kansas City StarFollow @exnbadotcom
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