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Virginia hospital: Former NBA star Manute Bol dead at 47

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At 7-feet-7, Manute Bol was one of the tallest players in NBA history
  • He was known as a shot blocker in his 10-year professional career
  • Bol, a native of war-torn Sudan, reportedly donated his NBA earnings to charities
  • The Virginia hospital where he died did not disclose the cause of death

(CNN) -- Manute Bol, one of the tallest players in NBA history, died Saturday at the age of 47, a spokeswoman with the University of Virginia Medical Center confirmed to CNN.

The hospital did not disclose the cause of death.

Bol, who was listed at 7-feet-7 inches tall and 225 pounds, played for the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat in his 10-year career.

The native of war-torn Sudan was known during and after his career for his charity work for his home country.

"He was a wonderful person. He would always talk about the civil war going on in Sudan, because he was sending all of his money back to Sudan," Charles Barkley, Bol's teammate on the 76ers and an NBA analyst for TNT, told CNN's Don Lemon. "I can honestly say I never played with a better person," Barkley said.

"He never forgot about the Sudan. He would talk to us about it all the time. ... The world is not a better place today; It's worse because we don't have Manute Bol," he added.

In 2004 after he was nearly killed in an auto accident, Bol told Sports Illustrated, "God guided me to America and gave me a good job. But he also gave me a heart, so I would look back."

Bol donated his NBA earnings to charity, according to the article.

Bol, so tall and so lanky, was somewhat the oddity when he came to national attention as a player for the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1984. He was a dominant shot blocker and rebounder at the Division II school, where often the tallest player on the other team would be a foot shorter than him. He played one year at Bridgeport then went pro.

Known as the Dinka Dunker for the Sudanese tribe he was from, Bol was drafted in 1985 by the Bullets and twice led the NBA in blocked shots.

Fans also loved when he would stand behind the 3-point line and push up a long-distance jumper.

He had more blocked shots than points scored in his career, the only NBA player to ever accomplish the feat.

He also drew attention after his career ended when he fought a former NFL player, William Perry, in made-for-TV boxing match. Bol won the fight over the man known as the "The Refrigerator" with a third-round decision.

Many did not know about Bol's propensity to joke on his teammates, especially Barkley.

"There's never been a guy who played more practical jokes or who made more people laugh more than Manute Bol," Barkley said. "He was hilarious."

Bol is survived by four children, two sons and two daughters, he had with his ex-wife, Atong.

Former NBA player Gheorghe Muresan, who starred with Billy Crystal in the 1998 movie "My Giant," was also listed at 7-feet-7.