Manute Bol: Blocker and Builder

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basketball court

In recognition of the UN’s “World Basketball Day”, Liz Waid and Colin Lowther tell about Manute Bol. He was a successful basketball player in the United States. But he also worked in his home country of Sudan.

Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Colin Lowther. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1  

Ten men are on the court – five on each team. They are playing a game with an orange ball. They pass it back and forth. They bounce it on the hard gym floor. They are trying to get the ball through a hoop. The hoop is small and round, and high in the air. So the men must throw the ball with speed and accuracy. The teams try to block each other’s attempts to throw the ball. This is the world’s second most popular team sport – basketball.

Voice 2  

Many famous basketball players are from the United States. But not all! Manute Bol played for almost 10 years in the NBA – the National Basketball Association in the United States. He was not from the US, but from Sudan. For many years, he was the tallest player in the NBA. Many people remember him for playing basketball. Others remember him for how much he loved his home country of Sudan. Today’s Spotlight is about the life of Manute Bol.

Voice 1  

Manute Bol was born in Sudan in a village of the Dinka people. His name means “special blessing.” Before Bol was born, his mother had two babies die. So his parents believed Bol was a special blessing. They hoped he would grow to take care of the family’s cows. But Bol always wanted to do more. He wanted to explore different places.

Voice 2  

The Dinka are some of the tallest people in Africa. But Bol was tall even for the Dinkas! He was about 2.3 meters tall. When he was young, many people would watch him and laugh at him. Bol’s cousin remembered how difficult it was for Bol to be so tall. He told The Washington Post:

Voice 3  

“Manute did not like people to look at him. When he went to the market, traffic stopped. Many people stopped their cars and got out to laugh at him.”

Voice 1  

Bol’s cousin thought Bol could be a very good basketball player. Another cousin told Bol that he could be rich and famous if he played in the United States. So Bol decided to try playing basketball.

Manute Bol at a Save Darfur event in 2006
Manute Bol at a Save Darfur event in 2006
DSC_0119” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by United to End Genocide
Voice 2  

Bol started playing for a small team in Khartoum. But he did not know how to play! But he worked hard and learned quickly. Tony Amin, the coach who guided and led the team, remembers teaching Bol how to play. He described one of the things Bol learned how to do:

Voice 4  

“Manute was very, very happy when someone shot the basketball and he blocked it. You do not find tall players like Manute on other teams. We were expecting a player like this would one day achieve something.”

Voice 1  

In 1982, a coach from the United States saw Bol playing. He immediately brought Bol to the US to play basketball. Bol was tall, but he was not very strong. People made fun of him because of his height and body. One coach even said that Bol was so thin that he would break like an insect. Many people wondered why Bol was in the NBA. They thought he was a joke.

Voice 2  

But those people were wrong. Bol started playing in the NBA in 1985. In his first year, he blocked 397 shots. This was an average of five shots each game. It was also a new record for a player in his first NBA season! He did not score many points. But Bol became famous for blocking shots. Some people even called him a “shot-blocking” machine! Bol played in the NBA for a long time. This is unusual. Many people get injured and leave basketball early. The average player only plays for five years. Yet Bol played in the NBA for almost 10 years! He played for four different teams.

Voice 1  

Bol lived and worked in the United States. But he loved Sudan. And he never forgot his home country or the people who lived there. Around that time, Sudan was in the middle of war. Bol often travelled back to Sudan to help others. He supported family members who were living in Sudan during the war. Bol explained to Sports Illustrated:

Voice 5  

“God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back.”

Voice 2  

Bol worked for peace in Sudan. He encouraged the opposing sides to come together. He even took part in government peace talks. He spent much of his money helping Sudan.

Voice 1  

But he also believed that education was very important. He believed that the way to achieve peace in Sudan would come through education. So he helped build a school in his home village of Turalei – the Manute Bol School. Then he had a bigger dream. Bol told The Telegraph:

Voice 5  

“My dream is to build schools across Sudan, because with education, you can have a good life, find a job, and improve… The children are the future of Sudan, no matter where they come from.”

Manute Bol at a Save Darfur event
R Manute Bol” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by United to End Genocide
Voice 2  

Children continue to learn at the Manute Bol School that he helped build. Today, it has two buildings and six classrooms. And in February 2017, the students placed first in their county for their annual exams!

Voice 1  

Bol’s plan was to build 41 schools throughout Sudan. But he was never able to build those schools. He died in 2010 from kidney failure and a rare skin condition. He was only 47 years old. When Bol died, one of his teams released a statement that described how Bol had influenced the world around him. It said:

Voice 6  

“He was a great basketball player. But people will remember him for how hard he worked. They will remember him working in his native Sudan and the cities in which he played.”

Voice 2

 What about you? Are there famous people who have helped your country or city? What will people remember when you are gone? Tell us about it. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at And you can find us on Facebook at

Voice 1

 The writer of this program was Lauren Anders Visser. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, “Manute Bol: Blocker and Builder”.

Voice 2  

Look for our free official app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Do you play or watch basketball? What sports do you enjoy? Write your answer below.

Join the discussion

  • No, I don’t watch basketball, but I play a little bit basketball with my girlfriend. We enjoy to play tennis. We learned to play in the University.

    • No, I don’t play basketball, bacase this play ask you to be tall and i am not tall. My tall is 1.4 meter, and this tall is not acceptable in the team basktball.

      I’am really enjoy when i play the football games, because it has enthusiasm. Of caourse i’m striker in my team, and i have scored many gools.

  • no i don’t both play and watch basketball , the most sport i enjoy with play it is running and walking and i watch football sometimes

  • I don’t know how to play basketball, i measure only 1,70m but i like Jordan!
    I love to watch the Premier League, I cheer for the Leicester City Team.

  • – No , I don’t because the basketball not famous in my country

    -I really enjoy when I’m playing soccer , it’s wonderful sports , when I was child I used to play soccer every day with my friends .

  • Basketball is one of my favorite sports. But I’m just interested inwatching basketball. I’m not good at it. Most likely because basketball necessitates a large number of tough skills with me. Basketball games at my university are something I like
    watching. Matches take place immediately on the site, and I may watch themafter my studies. Volleyball is my main hobby when compared to basketball. In addition, I often engage in volleyball. Aside from that, I also participate in volleyball competitions at my school or at other schools. Playing a lot of sports has helped me maintain and enhance my health. They provide as spiritual nourishment for my everyday life, assisting me in releasing tensions after a stressful or exhausting day.

  • Thanks to playing badminton after work I can release stress so well. My sweat glands were activated that release toxins in the body. This is the reason I feel strong and a little stressed when I study or work.

  • I don’t play basketball but I do play football I enjoy playing it its the first culture game in everywhere 90 percent of the world love or play football thanks spotlight for these great programs

  • Success story, I love that stories, this is encouraging me for bring my dream and live for good life.
    I was played basketball when I studied in college firth maybe before 7 years.
    I like to soccer games and I enjoy to watch my team specifically if they win.

  • Actually l am not basketball fans , but i really like football play and whatch match football its so fun .

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