My first "favorite athlete", Muhammad Ali, was dead at the age of 74 years old.
There aren't many men like Ali being produced in this country any more. Now, don't get me wrong. He had his issues when it came to his wives. He wasn't perfect. But he did more for this country than anyone who may have stepped foot on the White House lawn in the past 50 years.
People who don't know the man think that he was "The Greatest" because of what he did inside the boxing ring. No. Ali was "The Greatest" for what he did outside of the boxing ring. Ali inspired the world with his approach to day-to-day living. He was a motivational speaker. He was a civil rights activist. He was an entertainer. Oh, he was such an entertainer!
Ali had a relationship with the media that we will never see again. He gave interviews that resembled stand up comedy sets. The beneficiary of many of those interviews was a sports commentator named Howard Cosell.
Cosell and Ali were partners. They fed off of each other in their interviews to become two of the biggest figures in sports. The respect that they had for one another provided entertainment for more than a decade. Despite their close relationship, Cosell remained unbiased in his journalist approach unlike what we see with some talking heads today.
|Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali turned each other into legends.|
|Seated: Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar|
He embraced his blackness and his message resonated throughout black communities around the country. He stood for his beliefs regardless of the controversies and criticisms that surrounded him which is something athletes refuse to do today. Ali didn't care if you liked him. He didn't care if he lost money from losing fans. Heck, he didn't even care if he went to jail for what he believed.
|Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X|
Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984 and it slowly robbed him of all of the gifts that he'd displayed for us over the previous 25 years prior to that. If he only had the opportunity to continue speaking, what would his contributions to black communities and to his religion would have meant to society today?
|Muhammad Ali and Sam Cooke|
We will never know. The first athletic entertainer is gone. A lot of people speculated that Ali was in a bad place this time around as we got word that he was being hospitalized. Over the course of 24 hours, we all knew that his condition was getting worse and that he may be passing on. Despite that being the fact, it still feels like a body punch to the gut to wake up and find out that my favorite athlete is gone.