This past Sunday while doing some baby shopping I saw someone that I recognized instantly.
I’ve known that he lived nearby for years and years now but this was the first time that I actually saw him. That might not sound so unusual — there are millions of people “nearby” — but how many people are over seven and a half feet tall?
Yep, my wife and I walked right by Manute Bol.
Now I was never a basketball fan growing up but even I knew who he was — if only because of his height.
The minute we turned the corner and I saw his silhouette down the street I instantly knew it was him. My wife was just kinda, “Yeah, whatever…”
But that height was unmistakable.
Still quite a distance away, though there were no other people between us, my wife quietly asked me if I’d like to get my picture taken with him, you know, using her phone but I declined thinking he’d much prefer to be left alone — being a celebrity and all.
When I was a teenager I once passed by Wayne Gretzky on an escalator when the LA Kings were in town. I was going up, he was going down.
I made eye contact and without even saying anything, the look on his face said, “Please don’t make a scene, kid.”
I didn’t. But I also never forgot the experience.
In fact, I probably only remember it so well because I didn’t make a scene, or get his autograph, or even simply shake his hand. We just exchanged glances and went on our merry way.
So as we get closer, Manute is just standing there on the corner digging in his pockets apparently just enjoying the nice weather we’re finally having.
Then, as we got closer, he started to hobble towards us. Not towards us — as in approaching us directly, but he began heading in the direction we were coming from.
With my Gretzky experience in mind, I looked up and smiled a little closed mouth smile at him as we passed by like ordinary people.
As we turned another corner my wife said, “That’s really sad. He seemed like a lonely homeless man.”
Thinking about it, she was right.
I began to wonder if I *should* have asked to have my picture taken with him.
I’ll be honest — in this specific neighborhood, just being a black guy is enough to get some unusual stares. Being over seven feet tall would likely get you that much more though I’d imagine when you’re that tall, you’d receive some odd stares pretty much anywhere.
Most people on the street that day probably thought he was some sort of freak.
And that has me second guessing myself days later, you know, maybe he would have taken some pleasure in the fact that I knew who he was and that I’d really appreciate having my picture taken with him.
Not because he’s a wicked tall freak of nature but because he’s Manute Bol.
That dude used to be famous.