Manute Bol, saint

Manute Bol, the former NBA basketball player has reportedly died. Despite being among the tallest people in the world, he never became the basketball force his height suggested he might be. And that’s OK, because upon his death, we can define him by other yardsticks as the Kansas City Star’s Sam Mellinger did recently.

The Heat once fined Bol $25,000. He missed two exhibition games, so the fine wasn’t out of line, except this: he was in Washington D.C. for Congress-sponsored peace talks between rebel leaders from Sudan.

The team donated the money to Bol’s charity, but he was still annoyed, hinting out loud that trying to bring peace to a war-torn country might be a decent excuse for missing a couple preseason games.

You could do worse than that for an anecdote of Bol’s place in this world. According to reports, he made nearly $6 million in his career, and, aside from a few American comforts, spent it all trying to save lives and educate children back home. He has given so much and received little in comparison.

He was once lured back to his home country with the promise of a cabinet post, only to find out he would be required to convert to Islam. When he refused, he was stranded for nearly five years. His trust and good intentions have been abused so many times.

Even while playing, he went into war zones to help the Lost Boys and other refugees. Sometimes, those visits were interrupted by bombings from warlords who viewed Bol as a threat.

His family was wiped out by Darfurians, but when that country became victims, Bol was one of the first Sudanese to speak out in support. A Christian, he told his people that extremists were the enemy, not Muslims.

In the Sunday papers, you’ll probably find his obituary on the back pages.

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