In the mid-1990s, Manute Bol, already retired, packed his bags and left home. He told his family that he would be back soon, but his children did not hear from him again until in 2001 he appeared in 'Sports Illustrated' magazine. Manute had returned to Sudan and was posing with another woman, who was carrying a one and a half year old boy. That baby was called Bol Bol and this Friday he debuted with the Denver Nuggets in the NBA against the Miami Heat: 11 minutes, five points and four rebounds were his numbers.

Bol Bol measures 2.18 meters and has a wingspan of 2.40 . He is a little shorter than his father, but that is normal when your father measures 2.31. What surprises Bol Bol is the ease with which he moves that body, more typical of the highest forward than that of the slow and static center that was Manute. He has barely played a couple of friendlies and is already one of the NBA's comeback attractions at Disney World.

Bol Bol is the result of the complicated biography of his father, a Dinka boy who was given the opportunity by basketball to escape from a country on the brink of his second civil war. He never actually left. During his professional career, Manute often returned to visit the southern refugee camps. The small fortune he earned in the NBA was spent fighting hunger, rebuilding his conflict-ravaged village, Turalei, and financing the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

When Manute Bol came out in 'Sports Illustrated' the Sudan civil war lasted almost 20 years and had left more than two million dead . He had traveled to Kenya to mediate in the peace negotiations, but they broke up within two weeks. From there he had flown to Khartoum, where he was now trapped: the Government accused him of being a spy in the service of the United States. A year after the report, he managed to flee as a political refugee.

Sudan cost him money and even life. Manute Bol passed away in 2010 from a kidney problem and complications from Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a serious skin condition that she contracted on one of her visits to her country. He lived to see the end of the war (2005), but not the other half of the dream: South Sudan would achieve independence in July 2011, a year after his death.

Bol Bol, a 'modern' giant

Except for the physical aspect, there is nothing in Bol Bol that reminds him of his father. Manute was a scrawny giant, all arms and legs, who barely filled his 2.31 tall with 90 kilos. And even that was a lot more than the 80's he was when he first came to the United States . Just enough so the air wouldn't take him away. Bol Bol is around 100 measuring a span less. Nor does it weigh down kilos, but it is much more agile.

A few days ago, in his first friendly with the Denver Nuggets , it took him only five minutes to make it clear: in a sequence of 10 seconds, he covered a tray in the paint, bounced the ball himself and, as soon as he reached the attack, he plugged in a clean triple on a boat. Only with this has he already demonstrated more agility and coordination than Manute could ever dream of.

Because despite its size, Bol Bol usually moves like a small forward. It is common to see him throw three out of a block (although his mechanics are still somewhat slow), cut without the ball from the perimeter and run the counterattack. It is that combination that placed him as one of the best high school promises (4th for ESPN) of a generation that also included Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett. And he responded to expectations at the university, averaging 21 points (with 52% in triples) and 9.6 rebounds in nine games until he was injured.

Bol Bol suffered a fracture of the scaphoid bone , a very complicated injury in centers of his size. It was the injury that ended Yao Ming's career, which had Joel Embiid two years blank and that threatens the withdrawal of Pau Gasol. That was the reason why he dropped to No. 44 in the draft and why he had not yet made his debut with the Nuggets (he had played with the affiliated team).

Well, that and that apparently is not the most applied kid. He was slow to embrace a sport that his father wanted to instill in him from a very young age, although there is no better proof than his game that he ended up doing it.

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