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The voice at one end of the telephone belonged to Jimmy Lynam, who was the new coach of the Clippers. The voice at the other end of the phone belonged to high school basketball authority Howard Garfinkel, founder of the Five Star camps, who was seated at the team's table at the headquarters for the 1983 NBA draft in New York City. The subject of the conversation was the Clippers' pick in the fifth round.
"We pick Manute Bol," Lynam told Garfinkel. "That's M-a-n-u-t-e."
"What's his first name?" Garfinkel asked.
"That is his first name. His second name is Bol. That's B-o-l."
"Never heard of him. Where's he from?"
"Never heard of it. What kind of school is that?"
"It's not a school. It's a country."
"Never heard of it."
This was the beginning. A fable would unfold—the tale of this 7'7" Dinka tribesman from the Sudanese jungle who would play 10 improbable years in the NBA, then become known for his great humanitarian spirit before he died last Saturday at the announced age of 47 in a Virginia hospital due to complications from kidney disease—but this was before all that, back when he was a surprise, a question, a doodle come to life from a cocktail napkin.