The debate over the greatest basketball player of all time continues to rage on. Michael Jordan is believed by many to be the greatest and to have had the greatest impact on the sport. Others say that Lebron James has dethroned Jordan and is the greatest player of all time. While these are both incredible players of the game and they reached the highest stage possible there are other fantastic players out there whose names we will never know. Getting to the top requires hard work, determination, and a little bit of luck. There are some people who say that the greatest basketball player of all time was one who never reached the top of the game. His name was Earl Manigault.
Earl Manigault was born in 1945 in South Carolina but was raised in Harlem. He was known by many simply as The Goat. Any sports fan will know that the GOAT stands for the Greatest Of All Time. Yet that is now why Manigault was called the goat. He earned this nickname because his teachers couldn’t pronounce his surname and said mani-goat, not mani-galt. The nickname stuck though and in the end, it could accurately portray his rightful position as the greatest player of all time.
Manigault struggled at school and socially and so he found refuge in basketball. It was the only thing he was good at and he spent countless hours practicing his dunks, his shotting, and more. This is where he crafted his skill and it made him a legend in New York. In one school game, he famously scored 52 points a record at the time.
Manigault was an exceptional player and was only 6 foot 1 tall, short for a basketballer. Yet his aerial ability was unmatched. His signature move is called ‘dunk it again’ where Manigault would dunk the ball, catch it as it fell out of the net, and dunk it again before landing on the ground. He did all of this without holding on to the rim. If he was the greatest then why didn’t he make it to the top?
Actually, despite his bad grades, he was offered scholarships by numerous prestigious universities. He could have played almost anywhere but he rejected the majority of these schools. He said later that he didn’t have the discipline or courage to be one of the first black people to attend an all-white school, understandable. He then took a position at a different university where he was hated by the coach. The coach had his own ideas on how the game should be played and Manigault clashed with him. He wanted Manigault to be a cog in a slow-moving wheel. Manigault was a force on the courts and couldn’t be contained like that. His playing time was greatly reduced until he was basically not playing for the first team at all.
He quit a few months later because of the clash and due to his girlfriend becoming pregnant. Sadly after dropping out of college things just got worse. Manigault became addicted to heroin and squandered any remaining opportunities he had. He almost turned pro on a number of occasions but his drugs and the life of crime that he turned to, to fund that drug habit ruined him. He went to prison on two occasions and continued to struggle with heroin addiction for much of his life.
In the end, he did clean up and started the Goat tournament in New York. A basketball tournament aimed at keeping kids away from drugs. While he never reached the heights he was capable of, his name is well known on the courts of Harlem and wider New York. Many of the great NBA players, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, when asked who is the greatest of all time, will not say Jordan or Lebron, they will say it is the goat.