Muggsy Bogues once said Manute Bol always wanted to be a point guard. We don’t doubt it. Because Bol always made sure to do everything he could with every opportunity given to him. That also included helping others, especially his fellow South Sudanese people. This is something two-time NBA All-Star Luol Deng would forever be grateful for.
Manute paved the way for Luol
When Bol made his debut in 1985, Deng was born. As young Luol was growing up, Bol was making sure more of his people got the same opportunity to play on basketball’s biggest stage. By the time Deng was seven years old, Manute was already running basketball clinics in South Sudan.
Through his older brother, Deng learned a lot from Bol, and it marked the beginning of his successful NBA career.
“[My brother] would grab me and my friends and he would take us to the court, and we would do exactly the same drills. Manute would teach him how to do a layup, how to dribble between the legs, behind the back, how to shoot. And my brother started teaching me that and I was 7 at the time…And from then, I was always listening to them and following, so it really helped me a lot because my brother was coaching me almost as if he believed that I could be the one…That’s really how it started for me,” Deng told Andscape.
A role model
With a towering 7-foot-7 presence, Bol was supposed to be grabbing boards and swatting away shots on the basketball court. However, he was the kind of a person who couldn’t be content with just making great strides in the NBA. He spent his entire career and life helping the South Sudanese people in their every battle and hardship until his final breath. And that is what's ingrained in Deng to this day.
“Forget a basketball legend, he was a guy who was in the thick of things, funding the government as much as he can for us to win our independence,” Deng said of Bol.
What Bol etched in South Sudan’s history was incredible, so it’s only right that in 2012, two years after his untimely passing in 2010, his legacy in the country was honored in Washington. But Deng didn’t need to see all those recognitions to remind him about what the late Manute Bol did for them.