MANUTE by Leigh Montville


The Center of Two Worlds
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 With humor, a touch of pathos, and equal amounts of jock-talk and social history, Sports Illustrated senior writer Montville tells how 7'7'' Manute Bol went from cow-tender in the Sudan to multimillionaire shot-blocker for basketball's Philadelphia 76ers. A spindly giant among giants, Bol has been described as ``the ultimate player from the ultimate ghetto.'' He's also been called ``a liability'' and the worst player in the NBA. A Dinka tribesman from the village of Turalie (recently destroyed in Sudan's civil war), Bol had never heard of basketball prior to 1979. But ``discovered'' by Don Feeley, a journeyman coach looking for a ticket to the big time, Bol found himself in Ohio in 1983, the pet project of Cleveland State coach Kevin Mackey (whose drug problems landed him in jail, while his recruiting violations led to suspension). Illiterate and speaking almost no English, Bol was enrolled at the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he played basketball and took photography, racquetball, and pottery (the school was later placed on probation). When his selection in the NBA draft was voided on a technicality, he signed with the Rhode Island Gulls of the fledgling USBL. Teamed with the 5'7'' Spud Webb, Bol, Montville notes, quickly tired of being a sideshow, a ``photo opportunity.'' Finally drafted by the Washington Bullets and later traded to Golden State and then Philadelphia, the much- too-slender backup center (who weighs less than 200 pounds) never developed his offense, averaging fewer than four points per game, and was unable to hold his own ``against...brutes the size of Moses Malone.'' But Bol has led the league in blocked shots, and his mere presence on the court requires adjustments by opposing teams. Montville suggests that Bol's greatest impact on the game may be in opening the door to other Africans. Oddly touching and funny: a captivating look at a unique individual. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-74928-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992


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