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Monday, June 21, 2010

Hey... wait a Manute!

Manute Bol, the 7 foot-7 inch, 225 lb, "Hey, don't kick sand in my face" drink of water, was one of the first of his kind... a foreign-born big man drafted by the Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards) in 1985, straight from Sudan, his home country. He died Sunday at 47. In the NBA, he was seen as somewhat of a freak... tall, frail and couldn't play NBA basketball at the top level, but boy, could he block shots. He averaged 3.3 blocks per game, an NBA record, and that was better than his scoring average of 2.7 points per game. Though he could dunk with two feet on the floor, he loved to shoot 3s from the outside... and was somewhat of a good show at that. One "3" per game would have upped his scoring average.

The thing about him that is most notable, though, is that he was a wonderful humanitarian. "Despite his accomplishments on the court, his lasting legacy will be the tireless work and causes he promoted in his native Sudan and in the cities in which he played," said the Wizards. He used all of his earnings and his enormous popularity in his home country to help the kids and poor make a better place for themselves. He made a difference.

The world will miss the big guy... not because we really knew him but because he was a gentle, caring, modest, unselfish individual who used his height and limited prowess to make a difference to those with little hope. He represented what we could use more of. What a tribute.

Conversely, Gary Coleman died recently at age 42. Best known professionally for his role in the early TV sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes, he led a troubled life. At 4 feet, 8 inches, he is now, sadly, best remembered for his troubles... and lately, for the fights over his remains and meager estate.

As one of my all time favorite wrestlers, Andre the Giant-- another kind and gentle man out of place in his body-- said, "The big and the small, they don't live very long." Andre was 7 feet, 4 inches and weighed in at 540 lbs--almost 3 times more that Bol. In real life, he was a soft-spoken pussycat. I really did love him in Princess Bride--almost everyone's favorite movie (if they have any taste at all). He died in 1993 at age 46.

There is more that one contrast in these three. Bol at 7 feet, 7 inches, Coleman, a yard-stick shorter at 4 feet, 8 inches and Andre at 7 feet, 4 inches would make a nice graph on paper... but together, they average just a little over 6' -6"... a height I'll bet, each would have been happier (though poorer). Their average age at death--45.

"The big and the small, they don't live very long."

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