Following the passing of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, former NBA player, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a post on Facebook, devoted to Ali.
“Part of Muhammad’s greatness was his ability to be different things to different people,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
Ali died at the age of 74 surrounded by his family on June 3, 2016. He battled the Parkinson’s disease for over 30 years.
“To sports fans he was an unparalleled champion of the world, faster and smarter than any heavyweight before. To athletes, he was a model of physical perfection and shrewd business acumen. To the anti-establishment youth of the 1960s, he was a defiant voice against the Vietnam War and the draft. To the Muslim community, he was a pious pioneer testing America’s purported religious tolerance. To the African-American community, he was a black man who faced overwhelming bigotry the way he faced every opponent in the ring: fearlessly.”
“During my more than 50 years in the public eye, I have met hundreds of renowned celebrities, artists, athletes, and world leaders. But only a handful embodied the self-sacrificing and heroic qualities that defined my friend and mentor, Muhammad Ali,” said Abdul-Jabbar’s message.
A master of self-promotion, he declared early in his boxing career, I am the greatest! This kind of boasting enraged many people, just as he’d hoped, ensuring a large audience that just wanted to see this upstart boy taught a lesson,” he continued. “But it was Muhammad who taught the lesson because, as he once said, It’s not bragging if you can back it up. And back it up, he did. Again and again. And not just in the ring.”
Abdul-Jabbar said that at a time when blacks who spoke up about injustice were labeled uppity and often arrested under one pretext or another, Muhammad willingly sacrificed the best years of his career to stand tall and fight for what he believed was right.
“In doing so, he made all Americans, black and white, stand taller,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I may be 7’2″ but I never felt taller than when standing in his shadow.”
Abdul-Jabbar went on to add that Muhammad Ali did a lot for America and people will remember that his bravery his outspokenness, and his sacrifice for the sake of his community and country “lives on in the best part of each of us.”
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