When Manute Bol retired from the NBA in 1995, he was 32. At least, that’s what most people believed, because that’s the age was listed in his bio at the time. But according to a former college basketball coach who helped bring Bol to the U.S. in the 1980s, Bol may have actually been much, much older than that. He also may have been damn-near 40 when he was playing college basketball.
The revelation about Bol’s age came to light this week thanks to Kevin Mackey, a former head coach for Cleveland State who now serves as a scout for the Indiana Pacers. Mackey spoke with zagsblog.com and talked about how Oct. 16, 1962, Bol’s supposed birthday, wasn’t actually Bol’s birthday at all. He admitted to making up the date soon after he brought Bol to the U.S. for a recruiting visit. He said Bol "didn’t know how old he was" at the time, which made it easy for Mackey to simply make up an age up for him.
"He had no idea of his age and the kid who came over with him didn’t know how old he was," Mackey said. "No one knew how old he was. The immigration people were in the office [at Cleveland State] and they thought it was great. They loved it. And they were big fans of Cleveland State, they used to come to all our games. They wanted to cover themselves, because Manute was starting to get so much publicity. His picture was in the paper. He was on the 6 o’clock news because he was such a different looking guy than everyone else. At that time, no one had ever seen anything like it."
As it turned out, Bol didn’t end up going to Cleveland State. He went to a Division II school called University of Bridgeport instead. And Mackey was later accused of paying Bol and other players from Africa during his recruitment of them. But it sounds like Bol shouldn’t have been playing at Cleveland State or any other college anyway. Because according to Mackey, he was more than likely 35 years old when he played college basketball, not 19 as Mackey had listed him at.
Regardless of how old he was, Bol was eventually drafted into the NBA in 1985 by the Washington Bullets. He spent a decade in the league playing for the Bullets, Warriors, 76ers, and Heat. And if Mackey’s estimation of his age is correct, he very well may have been upwards of 45 or even 50 when he retired from the league. Bol died in 2010 due to complications associated with Stevens-Johnson syndrome.
As Yahoo! Sports pointed out this week, this isn’t the first time Bol’s age has come into question. During an interview with Vice Sports in 2016, Bol’s former teammate Jayson Williams shared a story about a conversation he once had with Bol. He claimed Bol may have been as old as 55 during his NBA days.
Bol’s name has been back in the news a lot this week because of his son Bol Bol, who just committed to play college basketball at the University of Oregon. His son is 18. Bol also has 9 other children.