In theory both teams were playing for third, but the fans decided the main event as soon as he stepped onto the floor.
It was 23 years to almost the exact day that 7-foot-7 Manute Bol played his ninth NBA game on in Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks, where he bought 80 tickets for family and friends to come see him play.
His son, 7-foot-2 Bol Bol, was the star people came to see last week.
“I remember him as a very small child, he came to visit before,” said fan Michael Thornberg, a classmate of Manute’s at the University of Bridgeport, who had courtside seats on Friday.
“His father was a very, very wonderful person,” Thornberg added of Manute, who passed away in 2010 when Bol was just 10 years old.
Going back to March, it was the teenager’s fifth game in New York City. Then, Bol led Las Vegas-based Findlay Prep into the semifinals of GEICO Nationals at Christ the King in Queens.
Less than two weeks later, Bol was part of the Jordan Brand Classic experience, which hosts many of the elite high school talent, and tallied 24 points and nine rebounds in Barclays Center.
Having been part of the festivities, Bol also competed in the JBC Open Practice one day before the game, hosted in the Nets practice facility, in front of media and NBA scouts from every team.
“This is my second time being in a practice facility, but this one is pretty cool because it’s on top of a building,” Bol said of Nets’ HSS Training Center in Sunset Park. “It’s a pretty long court,”
At the 2K Classic, which began Thursday night, Bol hd 14 points, five rebounds and four blocks in a loss to Iowa. The freshman phenom bounced back for 26 points, nine rebounds and four blocks against Syracuse’s zone defense.
“He’s a good player,” said Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim after losing to Bol and the Ducks, 80-65, in the consolation game. “He’s got a good feel for the game. He’s a great passer and scorer, and he can shoot from the perimeter and from the high post.”
So far through four college games, Bol is averaging 18.8 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks while shooting nearly 52 percent from the floor, 33 percent from three and 75 percent from the foul line for the nationally ranked Ducks.
“It’s been pretty hard because college games are a lot more physical and it’s a lot faster,” said the soft-spoken Bol of his adjustment.
Head coach Dana Altman had much more to offer regarding his likely “one-and-done,” who will be one of the most sought-after prospects in an otherwise weak overall draft class in 2019.
“He’s going to grow into a special player because you saw him shoot the three, you saw him handle it, he makes nice passes,” Altman said. “It’s a challenge for us to find things where we can take advantage of his uniqueness.”
As Bol embarks of the remainder of his freshmen season, he’ll be monitored by many NBA teams expecting to pick high in the draft, where early mocks have him placed as high as 10 to the Nets.
And of course, the New York Knicks are aware of his MSG performance. Perhaps Bol will make another trip to NYC in the future. Possibly for a home game.