There are probably only a handful of really iconic athletes that this country has ever produced. You don’t even have to be a sports fan to recognize the name. I consider Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali to be at the top of the list. These guys are by far the most recognizable athletes ever in the United States. I would go even further and argue that Ali might be the most recognizable and perhaps most famous athlete ever in the world. He was a larger than life figure who inspired millions of people all around the world.
I have to confess a few things about Ali, first of all, I am kind of young to remember the heydays of Ali’s career so he did not touch me personally like he has so many others. I have seen many documentaries of him so I know a lot about him and his life story. Second of all, I think Ali would have been a huge villain in today’s world of sports. He was somewhat of a villain back then, but with the huge amount of social media in today’s world, he would be hugely loved and hated. Nobody likes a brash, cocky athlete who proclaims that he is the greatest. I would include myself in that category. I would definitely find myself rooting against him in ever fight. His outspokenness about certain social issues might rub some people the wrong way as well. An athlete who joins a radical religion that calls white Americans the devil is asking for a lot of trouble. I strongly dislike race baiting, bigoted divisive athletes. Those evil white people did a lot for helping his career and I don’t think Ali really appreciated that fact.
I have to tip my cap to Ali though for standing up for what he really believed in. Whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect a guy who is willing to sacrifice his career for what he believes in. He was stripped of his heavyweight championship and his career was very much in limbo for 3 years after he refused to serve in our military during the Vietnam war. It was during the peak of his career and he probably lost a considerable amount of money.
I don’t know if Ali was really the greatest, that is certainly up for debate, but it is hard to argue his impact on this world. You might not have liked his showmanship and self promoting style, but it is highly entertaining. I think that was a major appeal of Ali. Very few athletes ever had that mixture of charisma and talent. I highly doubt that we will ever see another guy like Muhammad Ali. Deep down, I really believe that Ali had a huge heart for this world and that is why I have to give him a lot of credit even though I wasn’t his biggest fan. RIP champ! Boxing has never been the same since you left the sport.