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Standing Tall

7 feet 6 inches tall, Manute Bol stood out like a sore middle finger where a sore thumb was supposed to be. The son of a Dinka tribal chief in the Sudan, he learnt to play basketball only at 18 years of age, where he chipped his teeth while attempting to dunk.
I've seen him play basketball on TV. He was this elogated oddity that made you check if you had set your television set to widescreen vertically. He wasn't Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley, and I've never heard him speak a word.
His ten years in the NBA would certainly have made him a multimillionaire. He could have walked around wearing thick gold chains, sporting tatoos or cutting rap albums like the rest. But he always was the oddity, drawing ticket sales from the curious who wanted to see a freakshow block 16 shots in a single game.
He was the stuff of jokes, a measure by which we'd describe something as awkward, ugly and long.
His country suffered years and years of civil war, and what we didn't know was that Manute Bol was helping the rebels to overthrow the oppressors. While we talk and blog about peace, Manute put his wallet down.
It wasn't too long ago I saw him on TV again. He had joined some ice hockey team. Imagine that. A super-elongated creature of a person decked up in shin guards on ice. We laughed, and laughed. He had chosen to be so utterly ridiculed so that his hope for peace could stay alive.
We had no idea.
Last night, Manute Bol suffered <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=1832856">serious neck injuries in a car accident</a>. He wasn't speeding around in his flashy sportscar. He was in a cab, like any average person. He's badly injured.
I've lost the ability to laugh.

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