Best Known as: extremely tall NBA blocker
Born into a Sudanese family whose shortest member is 6 feet 8 inches, Manute Bol, listed at 7 feet 7 inches, didn't really stand out until he arrived in the NBA, where he was the tallest player for most of his 10-year career (1985–1995). Bol didn't pick up a basketball until his late teens, when he was discovered playing in Khartoum and brought to the U.S.—without speaking or understanding a word of English. But his natural height, gift for blocking shots, and sunny disposition made him a crowd pleaser and player favorite. When he retired in 1995, Bol had played for Washington, Golden State, Philadelphia, and Miami and was the only NBA player to have more career blocked shots (2,086) than points scored (1,599). Bol remained committed to helping his homeland, traveling frequently to the Sudan to monitor such projects as building schools with the Sudan Sunrise Foundation. Manute Bol, age 47, died in Charlottesville, Va., of kidney trouble and complications stemming from a rare skin disorder, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.