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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

RIP: Manute Bol, Altruistic Athlete Remembered

Hoop Star, Humanitarian Southern Sudanese player stood tall on and off the court...

When Manute Bol played basketball, shooters on the other team would sneak a peek to find out where he was, lest he swat their shots into the expensive seats. But off the court, everyone knew were Mr. Bol stood. He was doing everything he could for his war-ravaged home, Southern Sudan.

Mr. Bol, a very tall, courtly man, died last weekend at 47 of complications from a severe kidney ailment and other conditions. He had been badly injured in a 2004 car accident. He lived in West Hartford from 2002 to 2007, where he added a touch of international celebrity and panache, and is well remembered. "He was always a gentlemen," said state Sen. Jonathan Harris.

Readers of Dave Eggers' remarkable and frightening blend of truth and fiction about the life of a Sudanese immigrant, "What Is The What," know that Mr. Bol was lionized by his countrymen. For good reason. He spent most of his professional basketball fortune trying to improve conditions in Southern Sudan and help immigrants who had left. He held a fundraiser last year in West Hartford for a school he was building back home. Mr. Bol played for 10 years in the National Basketball Association and was one of the game's premier shot-blockers. His greater achievement was to use his star status to help his countrymen. It's an example more celebrities should embrace.

Rest in peace, great son of Africa.

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