Only a few guys were able to dunk on Manute Bol -- Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley headline that list. But none of them got paid for it. Except for Robert Parish, whose throwdown on the 7-7 giant got him a very large sum of cash, all thanks to Larry Bird.
"The first one to dunk on Manute would get all the cash"
In his memoir, "Back From The Dead,"Bill Walton, a member of the 1985/86 Boston Celtics, shared a story about how Bird put a bounty on Bol, challenging every single member of that iconic team to throw one down on the rookie from Sudan. And it all started with a block.
"None of us had ever heard of him before," Walton writes, remembering the first time the Celtics went up against Bol. "But Larry warned that whatever happened tonight to make sure that Manute didn’t block your shot, because if he did get you, ESPN and SportsCenter, still in its infancy, would never let anybody forget."
Sometime during the game -- the Celtics won 88-73 -- Walton got the ball on the left wing, with a clear opportunity for a bank shot. He let it fly, but Manute came out of nowhere, "elongated endlessly," and swatted his jumper out of the air.
Larry went wild, and to this day he has never let me forget it. Later, Larry called us all together and said that we all had to put $100 into a pool, and that the first one to dunk on Manute would get all the cash—$1,200.
Bill Walton, Back From The Dead
Hunting for Bol
Thirteen days later, Boston went up against the Bullets once again, this time at home. But despite the bounty on Bol's head, none of the Celtics were able to put him on a poster. So Bird decided to up the stakes. "Larry announced that we were going to roll it over and keep it rolling over until somebody did successfully throw one down on the big guy," Walton writes. "And that each game would require another $100 contribution per man from our entire Celtic squad of twelve guys—until it happened."
According to Bill, Kevin McHale was the guy most eager to throw one down in Manute's face. During one of their matchups, he just kept going at Bol, completely ignoring every play called on offense. But the upshot was always the same -- "Manute was blocking every attempt by Kevin, who remained completely undeterred."
Hunting for Bol didn't end much better for Bird, who went out of his way to be the one to take home the money. "I came up with a defensive rebound and threw a long outlet pass to Larry, who was all alone at half-court, on the left side," Walton writes. "There was nobody between Larry and our goal. But instead of driving in and making an uncontested layup, Larry stops, cradles the ball on his hip with his left arm, and points at Manute, who is still down at his own basket and completely out of the play."
"Larry is waving frantically for Manute to hurry back on defense so that Larry can go in and try to dunk on him. Manute was clueless to our little game within the game, but he dutifully hustled back, and when Larry came flying in, Manute sent him and the ball back one more time."
Bill Walton, Back From The Dead
While the Celtics' legendary coach, K.C. Jones, was trying to get a grasp on the situation, Robert Parish got the throwdown over the 7-7 giant, winning "a very large sum of cash," undoubtedly in the thousands. The rest of the Celtics left the arena empty-handed, but with an incredible story that perfectly epitomizes some of the brilliant things about that group, courtesy of Larry Legend.