Posts Tagged ‘Manute Bol’

A Man of No Reputation

I returned yesterday from almost 3 weeks of being out of the country, which explains my silence during that time period (sorry for those who left comments on the last 2 posts, I’l try to catch up soon).  While I was gone, I had trouble keeping up with the latest news and blog posts.  I finally got a chance to check my Google Reader toward the end of my trip, only to have 450+ items to read.  So, if you posted something worthwhile that I should read, let me know.

One item I did see was a link to Jon Shields’ article in the Wall Street Journal on Manute Bol, entitled “Manute Bol’s Radical Christianity.”  Bol, a retired professional basketball player, passed away on June 19.  His claim to fame was being the tallest player in the NBA during his career, measuring 7’6.  He was, in many ways, an oddity.  Being as tall as he was made him stand out even in a league of incredibly tall people. 

In his post-NBA career he became most well-known for random appearances in celebrity gimmicks.  He had stints as a horse jockey, a hockey goalie and boxed Refridgerator Perry.  And let’s be honest, the sight of a skinny (he and I weighed about the same, and I’m 6’1) 7’6 guy in a boxing match is intended to bring laughter. 

I knew that Bol was a Christian, but I didn’t realize the extent to which he lived out his faith.  I knew he raised money to help those in need in his native Sudan, but I had no idea how much he actually did.  This is why I found the above article so convicting on a personal level. 

I remember thinking, when he was making these gimmick appearances, “these people (you know, because all celebrities are the same) will stop at nothing to make a few extra bucks.”  I laughed at him.  I wondered if he realized how promoters were taking advantage of him to cash in.  Why would he allow himself to be humiliated this way?

Little did I know he did need the money, but not for the reasons one might think.  As the article states,  “Most NBA cats go broke on cars, jewelry & groupies. Manute Bol went broke building hospitals.”  In his efforts to help those in need, Bol had spent the fortune he made playing professional basketball.  He could have retired and lived a relatively comfortable life in the States.  Again, I’ll quote the article:

When his fortune dried up, Bol raised more money for charity by doing what most athletes would find humiliating: He turned himself into a humorous spectacle.  …Bol agreed to be a clown. But he was not willing to be mocked for his own personal gain as so many reality-television stars are. Bol let himself be ridiculed on behalf of suffering strangers in the Sudan; he was a fool for Christ.

And the whole time I laughed at him.  I assumed he was simply trying to make a buck.  So many athletes, after they retire, miss the limelight and will do anything to be on television again.  They need the money because they wasted all they earned.  They make fools of themselves just to be seen.  Bol, on the other hand, did it for someone else. 

I assumed he lost his dignity.  I assumed he sacrificed his reputation for fame.  I assumed he was like every other celebrity who fell so in love with fame that they lost all sense of shame.

The truth is that Manute Bol demonstrated his dignity by sacrificing it on behalf of others.  He lived out the gospel in a way that I, and many others, overlooked and mocked.  He allowed himself to be ridiculed in order to help those who could not help themselves.  In other words, he acted like Jesus.

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