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Welcome to 'Air Bol'
Jack McCallum
October 21, 1985
Stronger and heavier, the Bullets' 7'7" Manute Bol could be a force
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October 21, 1985

Welcome To 'air Bol'

Stronger and heavier, the Bullets' 7'7" Manute Bol could be a force

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The Knicks have experienced it. The Celtics have, too. Last Saturday night it was the Dallas Mavericks' turn. Have you heard about it? Can't you just feel it?



"It's really quite amazing," reflected Dick Motta after his Mavericks lost 110-91 to the Washington Bullets—make that the Bol-lets. "No one can stop talking about the guy. The players, the coaches, the fans. Even the referees."

The guy is Manute Bol, the 7'7" Dinka tribesman from the Sudan who was selected by the Bullets in the second round of the NBA draft. In just three preseason games—all victories—Bol has transcended a media sideshow. Ladies and gentlemen, The Brother From Another Planet can play. He has blocked 18 shots in 64 minutes, an average of one block every 3.6 minutes. By contrast, Utah's Mark Eaton averaged a block every 6.2 minutes last season when he set an NBA record with 456. Clearly, what we have here is both a new dimension in defense and a full-scale happening.

By midseason, a replica of the spear that Manute once used to kill a lion back in his native Africa will be on sale at NBA concession stands, right next to the Michael Jordan and Dr. J posters. A shoe company will have completed its prototype of the Air Bol, a name that, incidentally, describes many of Manute's baseline hook shots. NBA scouts will have traded their college guides for pith helmets—forget Chapel Hill and Westwood, it's off to the Sudan! A thousand writers will have mined their thesauri for words to describe Bol's 91-inch body, to which he has added 17 pounds (up to 209) since August with the help of a weightlifting program and a lot of pizza with the works. Spindly. Spiderlike. Reedy. Tubular. Otherwordly.

And by that time, too, Manute Bol, considered merely the Bullets' coup de theatre on draft day, will have gotten a lot, lot better. Some early returns:

"If he puts on weight, nobody will be able to stop him." That from Patrick Ewing of the Knicks; Bol had six blocks against New York in an 85-78 Bullet victory. None was on Ewing, but he did reject three of 7'1" center Bill Cartwright's shots.

"He's got a nice sense for blocking shots. His range is pretty far and pretty high." That from Bill Walton of the Celtics, against whom Bol blocked nine shots in a 101-95 victory. One of them was on Walton, and another was an awe-inspiring erasure of a Kevin McHale fall-away jumper. "First time that shot's been blocked like that," said McHale.

"I tell you, they can win a championship with this guy." That from Boston coach K.C. Jones, who knows something about championships.

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