Goat refers to the ‘Greatest of All Time’. There are several famous footballers who are regarded as GOAT in football history including some of the best players of modern age like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. The traditional Footballer Pele is also regarded as the greatest footballer of all time. But unlike these famous sport magicians, there are some underrated and infamous but hugely talented players who are not taken into consideration.
In this article, we are going to introduce you to one such player who is the original goat in world sports altogether. Despite belonging to a less popular sport, Earl Manigault is widely regarded as the original goat. The former American basketball player is called Goat not just because of his brilliant performance but also for another reason. He was nicknamed “The Goat” due to his staggering style of play.
Meet Earl Manigualt, The Goat
Earl Manigualt is one of the top American basketball players of his time. Although several new generation players have surfaced, he remains an undisputed basketball legend. Manigualt is commonly regarded as one of the greatest basketball players the world has ever seen. Though basketball has a separate fan base in United States for being the most popular sport there, Earl Manigualt has become a renowned global superstar.
Born on September 7, 1944 in Charleston, South Carolina, the great American basketball player was brought up in Harlem, New York. Earl Manigualt was determined to become a basketball player at a very young age, so he grew up playing and practising basketball. With an average of 24 points and 11 rebounds, he kicked off his career by joining Benjamin Franklin High School, a basketball powerhouse in the Public School Athletic League.
In the late 1950s, Manigualt set his first NYC junior high school record by scoring 57 points in a single game. But his life did not remain that charming for long as when he began attending high school, he got some wrong company. He became a part of groups which somehow led him to expulsion. He got into mess as soon as he started taking drugs and skipping classes.
Although he took drugs, he stayed the star of high school basketball team and everybody assumed that he was destined to become the greatness of National Basketball Association. He was eventually expelled from school for smoking Marijuana. So, he finished his high school at Laurinburg Institute, a private institute in North Carolina.
Then he got admission in Johnson C. Smith University but left after first semester due to some problems with school and continuous clashes with the coach.
Several stories behind his nickname ‘The Goat’ are said to be the cause. His nickname has so many made up origins that its difficult to find which one is true. In his Interview with Newyork Times, Manigualt said that he got this nickname in junior high school where one of his teachers kept pronouncing his name ‘Mani-Goat’. While other story suggests that he was nicknamed the Goat due to his quite demeanor.
Another theory states that some people were confused over Manigualt’s last name, so they understood it ‘Earl Nanny Goat’ and from there his nickname ‘The Goat’ was derived. While another popular belief which is most justifiable is that he was called Goat as a short form of ‘The Greatest of all time’. This idea lasted forever while other theories kept popping and fading away over time.
Career and statistics
There is no doubt that Earl Manigualt was the legend of basketball with spectacular abilities. He was widely known for his leaping abilities on the basketball court. His signature move – the double dunk was as famous as him. He would dunk the ball, lifting it with his left hand, switch the ball to right hand and finally bring it around the basketball pushing it towards the top of basket, all done in air on a single jump.
However, this story turned out to be one of the several popular myths about his playground performance. In an interview with CNN available on YouTube, Earl made it clear that it was all rubbish and not even the Goat could do it.
Another unconfirmed report said that like the street basketball players like Jackie Jackson, Earl had the ability to touch the top of the backboard to retrieve quarters and dollar bills, part of the innovations and tricks that street basketballers used to perform to build their reputation. Just like the Dunking myth, this is also referred to as ‘reportedly’ without any reliable source for it.
It is described in detail in Todd Gallagher’s book “Andy Roddick Beat me with a Frying Pan”. An entire chapter of this book is dedicated to this myth suggesting that it was never done by Manigualt or anyone else in basketball history including the NBA stars.
Gallagher claimed in his book that Earl is one of the greatest playground basketball players of all time. This is why, a number of different tales were prevalent regarding Manigualt’s heroics but the central story of the popular legend is that he had such brilliant leading attributes that he could pull the dollar bills off the top of backboard.
People actually believed that the six feet tall guy could jump seven feets higher to reach the top of the thirteent feet tall backboard. The most amazing thing about all these popular myths was that the climax and twist of the story depended on who you go ask to.
One thing has to be acknowledged that Earl Manigualt had tremendous jumping ability. But jumping and Dunking were not the only abilities he was blessed with. To prove this, he practiced Hundreds of shots each day becoming a deadly long range shooter as well.
Manigualt had a balanced combination of luck and ability which led him to playground with some of the best players of the time including Connie Hawkins, Earl Monroe and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Another beautiful moment that occurred to him was when Abdul Jabbar came to end of his career with Los Angeles Lakers. After getting retired from the Los Angeles Forum, when he was asked who he considered as the greatest player he played with in his career, he responded by saying Manigualt. It was a pride moment for Manigualt.
Most importantly, the Goat, Earl Manigualt is featured in a 2012 documentary film named ‘Doin’ It in the Park’ which is regarding New York City street basketball.
Later years of Lifecanva
Manigualt’s later years were as tragic as the early ones. Following his return to Harlem, he developed a heroin addiction. But this time all went too far with Manigualt serving in the prison for sixteen months (1969-70) for the possession of drugs which is illegal. Unsurprisingly, Manigualt became a subject in Pete Axthelm’s book “The City Game” which caught attention of Bill Daniels, owner of Utah Stars.
In 1970, at the age of 25 Manigualt was released from prison, he celebrated on the Upper West Side in and around some big projects like Frederick Douglass with his friends who enjoyed his company and friendship – friends such as L. Bryd, Sleepy Thomas, and many more.
Later in his career, he made an attempt to become a part of Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association but failed to make it to the team and play professionally for them. He didn’t get in Utah Stars while he rejected the offer from Harlem Globetrotters on the other side.
Then, he began preparing for Goat Tournament, a summer competition which would feature great sportsmen such as Mario Elie and Bernard King. The tragedy happened when his drug addiction revived. He had to go to prison again for a two year term from 1977 to 1979 after failing an attempt of robbery to buy heroin.
After completing his prison term in the Bronx House of Detention and Sing Sing, Manigualt quit drugs and shifted to Charleston with his two young sons away from all the negative energy, New York City and the temptation of drugs. Within a year, he returned to New York and brought the Goat Tournament back.
He never tied the knot with anyone and stayed unmarried. He dedicated his precious time to “Walk Away From Drugs” tournament that he started to prevent kids for having the same experience and making mistakes he made. Most of the later years of his career were dedicated to working with the kids on court.
In later years, the famous street basketballer earned a living by painting houses, reaping lawns and devoting his time to work with local recreation department. By the 1980s, he was transformed into a weak old individual with no family or heirs, became frail and suffered through some serious hearth health issues. In February 1987, he even had two heart operations. He kept on devoting his life to children’s welfare in every possible way.
He became a counselor as well as coach at East Harlem’s La Guardia Memorial House and started working for Newyork’s Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network.
After having every kind of experience in his illustrious life full of exciting moments as well as moments of despair, Manigualt died of a congestive heart failure in 1998. At the age of 53, he bid his last goodbye to the world lying at the bed in Bellevue hospital in New York City.
He had two heart injuries including the one on two valves in 1989. He had some heart complications given doctors claiming that he needed a heart transplant. In an interview before his death, Manigualt said that he needed a heart transplant. “All of my doctors are telling me that my heart is very weak, and it is all attributed to drugs”, stated Manigualt.
Apparently Manigualt died but he left a legacy behind. He was one of those Greatest players who never played for National Basketball Association. In an article of New York Times, his admirer Kareem Abdul Jabbar referred to Manigualt as “the best basketballer his size in the history of New York City”. Manigualt and his high flying heroics were credited for paving path for next generation top players like Michael Jordan and Julius Erving. In fact, HBO aired a Television film in 1996 entitled ‘Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigualt’ portraying Manigualt’s whole life.