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How Did the Sudanese Officials Get Manute Bol’s Height on His Passport Wrong?

Manute Bol was a Sudanese-American professional basketball player. He is listed as one of the tallest players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) history. But did you know there was a discrepancy in his documents when he first landed in the United States?

When Manute Bol moved to the US from Sudan at 19, his passport was questionable as it listed him as 5 feet and 2 inches. He was actually 7 feet and 7 inches. Apparently, the Sudanese officials measured him while he was sitting down.

Who is Manute Bol?

Manute Bol did not have any birth records, but according to his documents, his birth date was listed on October 16, 1962, in South Sudan. His father was a tribe elder who gave him his name, which meant special blessing. Bol’s family was extraordinarily tall.

My mother was 6 ft 10 in, my father 6 ft 8 in, and my sister is 6 ft 8 in. And my great-grandfather was even taller—7 ft 10 in. I was born in a village, where you cannot measure yourself. I learned I was 7 foot 7 in 1979, when I was grown. I was about 18 or 19.

Manute Bol

Bol’s ethnic group, the Dinka and the Nilotic people were among the tallest people globally. Their heights would come at an average of 7 feet.

Bol initially took an interest in playing soccer. He then abandoned the sport because he was too tall to play. By the time he reached his late teenage years, Bol had played basketball in Sudan. For several years, he played for the teams in Wau and Khartoum. (Source: BBC)

How Did Manute Bol Start Playing for the NBA?

The former coach of the Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, Don Feeley, visited Sudan to coach and hold basketball clinics for the Sudanese national team back in 1982. Feeley convinced Bol to go with him back to the United States to play basketball.

With Feeley’s influence, Bol first played for the Cleveland State University. Coach Kevin Mackey was the one who listed his date of birth as October 16, 1962, but it is believed that Bol was much older. Bol did not speak or write a word of English by the time he arrived in Cleveland. But after months of classes at the ELS Language Centers at Case Western Reserve University, his English skills improved.

He never got to play for Cleveland State, as he was placed on a two-year probation for providing improper financial assistance to Bol and two other African players.

Feeley then helped Bol get into the National Basketball Association (NBA) when he expressed his intention to go pro. The Los Angeles Clippers drafted him in 1983 as the 97th overall pick. Jim Lynam, the head coach of the Clippers, received a call about Bol from Feeley.

So, I said, ‘Have you told anyone else about this?’ Feeley said the only one in the NBA he had called was Frank Layden at Utah. He said Frank said he couldn’t take another big guy like this. He already had Mark Eaton. I was the second guy Feeley had called. I told him he didn’t have to call anyone else.

Jim Lynam, Head Coach Los Angeles Clippers

(Source: BBC)

Discrepancy on Manute Bol’s Documents

Bol mentioned his hesitance in playing professionally in the United States as there was a language barrier and he could not understand the coaches. Then there were several discrepancies in his documents

One of the things everyone was looking at was his passport. His passport said he was 19 years old. His passport also said he was five feet two.

Jim Lynam, Head Coach Los Angeles Clippers

When Lynam asked Bol about the discrepancy, Bol explained that the officials in Sudan measured him while he was sitting down. With the language and passport concerns set aside, the NBA ruled that Bol is not eligible for the draft. (Source: BBC)

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