Contrary to popular prejudice that only “low-life’s” get addicted to drugs, the reality of heroin addiction is that it can destroy the lives of the most talented and intelligent people. The story of Earl “the Goat” Manigault illustrates this most poignantly.
A fabulously gifted basketball player, his life will be remembered today as much for the baleful effects of heroin addiction as for his spellbinding sporting talent. He earned the nickname “The Goat” when someone misheard his surname – Manigault – and it stuck throughout his career.
Earl Manigault was born in humble circumstances in Harlem, New York. As a measure of his gift, as a youth he rapidly acquired a reputation as a basketball genius, even in a region where the sport was as common as walking and breathing. He set the record for the Benjamin Franklin High School as a boy by scoring a breathtaking 57 points in a single game.
Despite his glittering abilities, Earl was never to make it to the exalted heights achieved by internationally famous basketball champions like Michael Jordan, however. He began experimenting with recreational drugs such as marijuana as a youth, but it was the effects of heroin addiction that put paid to his career and resulted in two prison sentences.
Manigault’s life was not a chronicle of destruction and despair, even so. He managed to kick his heroin addiction, whereupon he formed the “Walk Away From Drugs” basketball tournament for at-risk youngsters in his home town of Harlem – a project he ran until his tragically premature death in 1998, aged 54.