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Manute Bol 1962-2010

June 19, 2010 (WASHINGTON) — The Sudanese born basketball player Manute Bol has passed away on Saturday after falling ill last month to a rare condition that ultimately led to kidney failure and painful skin reactions.

Bol was being treated at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville according to its spokeswoman.

The 7-foot 7-inch player who was born in Turalie a remote village in the southern part of Sudan, first came to the U.S. in the early eighties after being discovered by Don Feeley a coach from Fairleigh Dickinson University who was at a coaching clinic in Sudan.

But his initial years in the United States were not easy as he struggled trying to learn English and almost headed back home thinking other students were laughing at him in an English-language class.

"I actually packed my bags and was going to the bus," he recalls.

Bol played at the National Basketball Association (NBA) starting in 1985 with Washington, Golden State, Philadelphia and Miami, averaging 2.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks for his career. He led the league in blocks in 1985-86 with Washington (5.0 per game) and in 1988-89 with Golden State (4.3 a game).

He was one of the tallest players in NBA history.

After the NBA, Bol worked closely as an advisory board member of Sudan Sunrise, which promotes reconciliation in Sudan.

Originally from South Sudan and a member of the Dinka tribe, Bol used his fortune to help his people who were in the midst of a two decades of civil war with the North. He contributed millions to the Sudan People Liberation Army (SPLA) fighting the government in Khartoum.

Owing to that and bad investments, Bol stood on the verge of bankruptcy and was forced to sell his homes.

"I never thought about the money I lost," Bol told The New York Daily News in 2004. "It wasn’t lost. It helped Sudan". In that same year Bol was seriously injured in a car accident when the driver lost control and slamming into a ledge before rolling over.

Bol and the driver were both ejected, and Bol suffered head injuries and broke his neck, wrist and knee. A police investigation found that the driver, who died due to injuries suffered in the crash, had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.

He was hospitalized in mid-May during a stopover in Washington after returning to the United States from Sudan. Bol was in Sudan to help build a school in conjunction with Sudan Sunrise but stayed longer than anticipated after the president of southern Sudan asked him to make election appearances and use his influence to counter corruption in the county.

He had undergone three dialysis treatments and developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a condition that caused him to lose patches of skin. Bol’s friend Tom Prichard who was the executive director of the Sudan Sunrise foundation said the skin around Bol’s mouth was so sore he went 11 days without eating and could barely talk.

Prichard said it’s believed Bol contracted the skin disease as a reaction to kidney medication he took while in Sudan.

Janis Ricker, operations manager of Sudan Sunrise, said Saturday the organization will continue its work building the school in Bol’s home village in southern Sudan. She said Bol’s goal was to build 41 schools throughout Sudan.

The Wizards Bol as a "true humanitarian and an ambassador for the sport of basketball."

"Despite his accomplishments on the court, his lasting legacy will be the tireless work and causes he promoted in his native Sudan and the cities in which he played," the club said in a statement.

Philadelphia general manager Ed Stefanski released a statement on Bol’s death Saturday.

"On behalf of the entire Philadelphia 76ers organization, we would like to pass along our deepest and sincerest condolences to the family of Manute during this very difficult time," Stefanski said.

"Manute’s impact on this city, our franchise and the game of basketball cannot be put into words. He was a person who was continually giving of himself through his generosity and humanitarian efforts in order to make the world around him a much better place, for which he will always be remembered."