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Earl Manigault was a spectacular talent who struggled

Street basketball player Earl Manigault addresses the Columb
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 16: Street basketball player Earl Manigault addresses the Columbia University basketball team.
Photo by Susan Watts/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Near the end of his long and illustrious career, someone asked Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who the greatest player he ever saw was.

He thought for a minute and he didn’t say Julius Erving, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson.

He said Earl Manigault.

And most people had never heard of Manigault.

But the basketball intelligencia knew.

Manigault, just 6-1, had huge talent. Think Michael Jordan/Ja Morant level talent.

He had a traumatic childhood though. Born into a large family in Charleston, SC, Manigault was abandoned by his parents and taken in when he was about seven by a woman named Manigault, who did her best to care for him, eventually moving to Harlem to give him a better life.

He was understandably damaged though and never really recovered. He never really thrived in school, struggling all the way to college at Johnson C. Smith and before that at Laurinburg Prep.

And drugs took a fierce hold of him, particularly heroin. As tends to happen with addicts, he lost interest in everything except maintaining his addiction.

It took him years to get off of the stuff and when he did, his health was ruined. He died at 53 with serious heart issues.

He’s still a legend in New York. As far as we know, no video exists, which is really too bad. We’d be happy to see even a glimpse of the guy Kareem calls the greatest he’d ever seen.