TMS Man of the Year: Manute Bol (Part 1)

January 02, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Welcome, and Happy New Year! We here at the Saloon look to welcome in 2008 by bringing you more of the same great material and lack of hard Cubs coverage that you have come to expect. Though we're a day late and a proverbial dollar short in making this the first post of the year, we would like to bring to you, at this time, the inaugural TMS Person of the Year. In much the same vein as Time magazine, we have poured countless hours into identifying a key mover and shaker, a global contributor. However, instead of celebrating this individual's accomplishments over the past year, we at TMS are putting them on the podium as a force to be reckoned for the next 365 days, scratch that, 366.

This first TMS Person of the Year is a legend, he is an icon, he made his way into the new TMS banner, he is...well, just keep reading and by way of an unprecedented three part installment, you'll find out more than you ever thought you should know about (fireworks exploding, confetti showering, "Beer Barrel Polka" being struck up by the band) Manute Bol.

Basketball Life:

To say that Manute Bol was somewhat of an NBA oddity would be an understatement. Standing 7'7" and tipping the scales at a rail-thin 225 pounds, Manute was something that no one had seen before. His path to the NBA was also anything but typical. Manute never played basketball until he was 16 years old, instead being engrossed in the exciting life of a cattle farmer in Sudan. Using his freakish dimensions, Bol made it onto the Sudanese basketball team, where he was noticed by the coaching staff of Fairleigh-Dickinson University. A year later, Bol was on his way to America to play college ball, despite lacking an education and only speaking Dinka, his native language in Sudan. As if that weren't bad enough, Bol aqrrived dressed in a leisure suit, and missing 15 teeth - some of which were missing as a result of his first attempt at a dunk (he hit his mouth on the rim).

Learning the game at Bridgeport College in Connecticut, Bol was a D-2 All-America in his only season, and was drafted in the 2nd Round by the Washington Bullets. In his rookie year, he lead the NBA in shotblocks, with 397. And it wasn't just your typical blocks, either. Bol was blocking fadeaways, turn-arounds, and baby hook shots. Detroit Piston, James "Buddha" Edwards told of how Bol was unlike anyone in the league, "I remember going up to shoot my fadeaway jumper against him, and I just kept fading and fading and fading. By the time I thought I had a clear shot, I didn't even hit the rim."

Bol was taking the NBA by storm, and was quickly becoming a fan favourite. Obviously his freakish physical attributes were a factor (he has a 48-inch inseam, size-16 feet and a flat-footed reach of 10'5"), but his play factored as well. Bol became known as the premier shot-blocker in the league. He had an NBA-best career average of a block every 5.6 minutes, ranks second in average blocks per game (3.34), and is the only player in NBA history to have more blocks (2,086) than points (1,599). Later in his career, his "fan favourite" tag continued to grow as Manute became accustomed to launching 3-pointers. Playing with the Golden State Warriors under head coach Don Nelson, Manute launched 91 three-pointers, making 20 of them. While playing with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1993, Bol launched a career high 12 three-pointers in one game, this time connecting on 6 of them.

Bol's NBA career spanned from 1985 - 1994. Manute played for the Washington Bullets (twice), the Golden State Warriors (twice), the Philadelphia 76ers (twice), and the Miami Heat. In 1994 Bol suffered an NBA career-ending injury, and his only experience after was a brief stint in the CBA and in Italy. For his career, Bol averaged 2.6 points per game and 4.2 rebounds. Bol has stated that he'd like to come back to the game, preferably as a coach who specializes in the development of big men.