Manute Bol once dared Michael Jordan to score on him, a preposterous taunt given that Jordan is one of the NBA's biggest legends.
"Manute said, 'Why be afraid of Michael Jordan? He comes inside, I'll block his shot.' And he did," remembered former Jordan teammate Rory Sparrow. "Manute stood his ground."
Actually, Bol was remembered during a memorial service at the National Cathedral on Tuesday as a towering figure, not so much for basketball, but for his gigantic support of his Sudanese countrymen. Helping a civil war-torn country survive its own genocide, he built schools, fed thousands and saved the Lost Boys.
The more than 100 attendees included four NBA officials and three college teammates. However, many remembered Bol's love for his homeland, which ultimately caused his death when he delayed treatment to oversee spring elections. Bol, 47, died June 19 from kidney complications.
"The most important thing is what you do in your lifetime," said Bol's uncle, Bol Bol Chol.
Basketball was the initial platform. The 7-foot-6 center was rail thin at 205 pounds when he arrived in Washington in 1985. Bol was a moving human stick figure. No one ever took him seriously as a basketball player despite his aggressive shot blocking.
Bol's the only NBA player with more career blocks than points. His aggressiveness may have had something to do with the fact that Bol once killed a lion with a spear as a youth. His career -- which lasted a decade even though he averaged a mere 2.6 points a game -- showed just the true value of his 8-foor-6 wingspan. He could touch the rim while standing flatfooted in his size 16 1/2 shoes.
The Dinka tribesman came from a tall clan. His mother was 6-10, his grandfather 7-10. This was the same family that saw 250 members killed in the Sudanese civil war.
And that leads to the real story of Bol's greatness.
"God guided me to America and gave me a good job," Bol told Sports Illustrated, "but He also gave me a heart so I would look back."
And Bol did, giving nearly all of his $6 million in NBA earnings to provide education, medical assistance and food. After exhausting his earnings, Bol raised funds by boxing William "The Refrigerator" Perry, playing goalie in a hockey game and riding in a horse race.
Bol wanted to build 41 schools across Sudan, where 85 percent of southern residents are illiterate. About 1.5 million children learn under village trees without even a chalkboard. Rains cancel classes, sometimes for months. Less than one percent of girls complete elementary school.
Sudan Sunrise, a school which promotes education, health care and community development, nears completion in Bol's hometown of Turalei pending $150,000 to finish classrooms and water system.
"Manute, you put the bar very, very high," said former U.S. national security advisor Robert McFarlane.
Bol's eight-foot coffin is en route to his Sudan village, where he'll be buried alongside family members.
It was far too soon.