Manute Bol the radical Christian

Bol sitting quietly during his playing days

I was shocked to hear of the death of former NBA center, Manute Bol. Bol, who at 7′ 7″ towered over all but the tallest of NBA big men, died at the age of 47, the result of a disease contracted in his home country of Sudan.

Recently, Jon Shields of the Wall Street Journal, authored an article entitled, “Manute Bol’s radical Christianity,” which explored the embarrassingly overused concept of redemption as it is often pinned to the exploits of NBA players. An excerpt:

What does redemption mean in the world of professional basketball and sports more broadly? It involves making up for—or, yes, ‘atoning’—for a poor performance. When the Lakers beat Boston, for instance, Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times called the victory ‘redemption for the Celtics’ 2008 Finals beating.’


Manute Bol, who died last week at the age of 47, is one player who never achieved redemption in the eyes of sports journalists. His life embodied an older, Christian conception of redemption that has been badly obscured by its current usage.

Bol, a Christian Sudanese immigrant, believed his life was a gift from God to be used in the service of others. As he put it to Sports Illustrated in 2004: ‘God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart so I would look back.’

Though many did not know that Bol gave away virtually his fortune of millions, I was left wondering how many would wag their heads at this extravagant display toward others. “How could he have blown through all that money?” some would doubtless ask.

Perhaps the better question is how can the rest of us, who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, emulate such a worthy example of radical Christianity?

Read the entire Wall Street Journal piece. I highly recommend it.

[Update: A FB fan page created for Bol reports that his illness was Stevens-Johnson Syndrome brought on by a reaction to medication he received while in Africa.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Marty,

    Thanks for sharing that. I liked Manute and was shocked when I heard he died last week. If we all lived a life like him.

  • Jay

    I didn’t know Manute was a Christian. Thanks for the post Marty. It’s been too long!


  • I learned of the life and faith of Maute!

    What a wonderful man! What a wonderful witness!