The first time I saw Manute, I was like, You gotta be kidding me. It was before we were in the NBA, when we played together in the summer United States Basketball League. Me and Manute were roommates at the time. The USBL was new, and I was the smallest person to play, and he was the tallest, so it was almost like a Globetrotters show going on the road.
Guys just loved him, not only because he was an NBA player and tall but also because he was very approachable and was always playing around with people. On the court, you could always depend on him to block the shots, but he was so funny too, saying stuff under his breath.
Manute, who died June 19 at 47, had that smile and a warmness about him. You don't find that from too many big guys. They always frown and act tough. He was always joking and telling you stories about his homeland, Sudan--which, you know, a guy from the projects didn't understand. He talked about how he and his dad would go out and kill their food. He'd say, "You Americans ... you Americans."
Manute would talk about things we, as Americans, have that they don't have in Sudan, and he always wanted to try and make a difference over there. Most guys who get money like that just go for big cars. From what I've heard, he gave all his money back to his country, trying to help. It's a sad story that he had to leave us at an early age.
Webb played in the NBA for 12 seasons