Happy Birthday to Mr. Muhammad Ali; the one and only, sensational champion in the ring and in life! He is truly The Greatest!
In December of 1999, Muhammad Ali was crowned Sportsman of the Century by the BBC and by Sports Illustrated. He was listed as Espn’s Sportsman of the Century just underneath Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan, whom they listed in the number 1 spot.
When I ranked him in my mind of 20th Century people, he certainly took the number 1 spot because Muhammad Ali has always been far more than an athlete. Throughout his lifetime, he has been an activist, a conscientious objector, a heavyweight champion and his greatest accomplishment–being a dad. On his 72nd birthday, despite battling the debilitating Parkinson’s Disease, Muhammad Ali still affects the lives of others by no more than the memory of his 6’3″ frame jogging around in a boxing ring to a sold out crowd of onlookers and people wishing they had half of what appeared to be psychic abilities, charm, charisma, and victory in and out of the ring. That is what people remember most. And, Muhammad Ali makes us feel invincible. He taught each of us that we could maintain our convictions and still be successful in the mainstream. Despite being imprisoned for not fighting in the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali became the Heavy Weight Boxing Champ of the world for the third time after his release, but his championship was even greater outside of the ring.
My daddy was killed at the tender age of 25, but he left behind a relic that I will cherish forever. He purchased a video recorder, and you could tell that he was psyched at having it because of the way he used it on cold and hot days and assumed the role of the community Bryant Gumble while documenting his thoughts, the ideas of others and my childhood, diaper-wearing days.
When my daddy converted to Islam, he changed his name. Because of his affinity with Muhammad Ali, his favorite Champion, he selected the surname Ali so that he could walk the journey of greatness, too. While he died a young man, he contributed to the growth and development of three beautiful, thinking young women–my sisters and I. He also made my mother a really happy wife. In watching the video my daddy left behind, his persona was much like that of Muhammad Ali; he was handsome, cocky, smooth, and very articulate. He was loving, attentive, and from his interaction with me, The Greatest!
Today goes out to the Greatest, The Champ, the Athlete of the Century, Mr. Muhammad Ali. There isn’t another man on this planet that can fill his gloves, talk his jive, and make boxing and life look as pretty as he does. Today he is 72 and I can only wish him 72 more. I am thankful for his inspiration and his influence in my life. Greatness lasts a lifetime, indeed!
The other day, in a previous blog called “If We Must Die…” I wrote about how our thinking affects the trajectory of our lives. Muhammad Ali’s thoughts became his words and his words became his actions–to be the greatest was already his destiny.
He said one time, “I am the greatest; I said that even before I knew I was.”
I salute you, Mr. Muhammad Ali!