nba

Stop what you're doing and watch Bol Bol


Author: Matt EllentuckPublished: 12/15/22

To rebound the ball, sprint down the floor, shake one defender with a spin move and euro-step through the next three for a dunk, you have to have a lot of talent.

To be 7-foot-2 and do that, you must be one of the best in the world.

That's what's going through all of our minds as we watch Bol Bol, the 23-year-old who was very nearly out of the NBA at one point, reinvent himself as the league's clear most improved player, and possibly next superstar.

Look at this nonsense:

Bol Bol's journey to NBA relevancy has been a wild one

To appreciate Bol's success, you have to look at how he got here.

Bol is the son of the late Manute Bol, a 10-year NBA journeyman who led the NBA in blocks in two different seasons. Since high school, Bol was on scouts' radars, even ranking No. 4 in a stacked class of 2018 at 247Sports. That's one spot ahead of Zion Williamson.

Bol committed to Oregon, where expectations were sky-high, and for a moment, they were met. In his first nine games, Bol averaged 21 points per game on 56.1% shooting with 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks as a freshman. He even made 13-of-25 3-pointers. Then a navicular foot fracture — a worrying injury suffered by Joel Embiid, Michael Jordan and Yao Ming in years past — required surgery and cost him the rest of the season.

Concern for his long-term future caused Bol's stock to freefall at the NBA Draft, where he was selected No. 44 overall in the 60-player draft by the Denver Nuggets. For a moment, the doubters were right.

In three seasons, Bol played in just 53 total games, and even worse, in 2022 he failed a physical that voided a trade that would've sent him to the Detroit Pistons. That nearly spelled doom for the rest of his career as concerns mounted. Eventually, he was traded to the Celtics where he did not play, and finally, he landed with the Magic.

The Magic believed in Bol Bol's future, and it's paying off

His talent was never doubted, but Bol Bol's health was. Despite this, Orlando, a bottom-of-the-table team that hasn't advanced past the first round of the playoffs in 13 years, did what any bad team should. They gave a player with promise a chance, to the tune of a two-year deal.

With confidence behind him, Bol has blossomed into a role player who may still only be scratching the surface of what he can bring. In 29 games this season, he's averaging 12.7 points per game on 60.4% shooting with 7.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He's an even more modern (futuristic?) center whose 7-foot-8 wingspan puts him in the company of nearly no one. Rudy Gobert isn't spinning his way through defenders at halfcourt.

There's still a long way to go for Bol to reach the potential someone his skillset can get to, but for now, he's just so damn fun to root for. Everyone's waiting for projected 2023 No. 1 pick Victor Wenbanyama to enter the league for good reason. But don't lose sight that the vertical prowess and lengthy-limb shiftiness we see in him already exists for the Orlando Magic.


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