Former NBA center Manute Bol passed away Saturday from acute kidney failure and the rare skin disease, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. When I saw the alert come across Google News, I thought, “Please let it be Uwe Boll” but unfortunately it was someone who has actually contributed to society.
The 7’7” Bol was a NBA fixture for 10 seasons, playing for four franchises after being drafted by the Washington Bullets in 1985. Over the years he became known for his sense of humor and charitable work in the Sudan, where he was born to a Dinka tribal chief. His family is currently making arrangements to have his body buried in the village of Turlai, where his father was also buried.
Mostly known for his height – especially after he was paired with 5’3” point guard Muggsy Bogues – Bol finished his career 14th in NBA history in blocked shots, but remains the only player to have more career blocks than points scored. He once tied the NBA record for blocked shots in a half with 11, and blocked eight in one quarter on two occasions. But his legacy will perhaps be defined by his contribution to modern slang, as he is credited with coining the popular apology – “My bad.”
According to Language Log, Bol could have created the phrase in the early 80s when he was playing college basketball at Cleveland State, but it certainly took on a life of its own when Bol was playing with the Golden State Warriors from 1988 to 1990. If Bol made a mistake in practice, he would announce, “My bad” as his way of saying that it was his fault. The phrase caught on with his teammates and eventually the majority of the country.
In 2002, the Fox network controversially agreed to promote Bol’s Ring True Foundation, which raised money to aid in effort and rescue relief for Sudanese refugees, if Bol agreed to participate in the poorly-executed Celebrity Boxing reality show. Bol “defeated” William “The Refrigerator” Perry with a third-round knockout, but the appearance brought a great deal of attention to his philanthropic efforts. Over the remainder of his life, despite battling his kidney ailments and skin disease, Bol took part in a variety of promotions across a number of sports – including a one-day contract with a Central Hockey League team – to raise support and awareness for his home country.
Bol’s family will have memorial services in both the U.S. and the Sudan for his many friends, teammates and countrymen. And I can only hope that somewhere Alan Ogg left a seat open next to him.
UPDATE: How could I forget this?