Publish date:

Greatest Impact

Author:

From the White House to the sports world to Hollywood, prominent Americans reflected on Ali's unparalleled legacy

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he'd tell you. He'd tell you he was the double greatest; that he'd "handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail." But what made The Champ the greatest—what truly separated him from everyone else—is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing....

"I am America," he once declared. "I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me—black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me."

That's the Ali I came to know as I came of age—not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn't. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today. Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR

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....

Today we bow our heads at the loss of a man who did so much for America. Tomorrow we will raise our heads again remembering 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.

Billie Jean King

@BillieJeanKing

Follow

Thinking of #MuhammadAli and remembering a man who was not afraid to take a stand and who was committed to being his authentic self.

DEREK JETER

He was at the All-Star Game in 2004, and we were all in awe of him. Didn't matter what generation you were from: He was the Greatest. He was one of the first athletes to speak his mind, and that opened the door for the many who do so today. He always stood up for what he believed, no matter what the cost.

Mike Tyson

@MikeTyson

Follow

God came for his champion. So long great one. @MuhammadAli #TheGreatest #RIP

SERENA WILLIAMS

The true GOAT. What a sad day for everyone to lose someone so great and kind and someone who really stood up for what they believed in. He was my hero. He always will be.

Jim Brown

@JimBrown

Follow

"The world has lost a great Champion. Muhammad Ali, lover of human beings, a warrior for the fight against discrimination...a great friend."

DWYANE WADE

He was strong, proud and vocal ... a black man who led by words and action. Misunderstood and unappreciated for most of his life. Thanks for standing for all but especially your own. It was always my honor to be in his presence and I am a better man for it.

MICHAEL J. FOX

Ali, the GOAT. A giant, an inspiration, a man of peace, a warrior for the cure. Thank you.

Hank Aaron

@HankAaron

Follow

We've lost a giant in Muhammad Ali. He did things his own way and I am so appreciative to have known him for so long. God rest his soul.

George Foreman

@GeorgeForeman

Follow

Until Ali no one said "I'm beautiful." He was royalty, yet common man was his pal. That is beauty. Greatest kind.

LEBRON JAMES (TO ESPN)

Obviously, we knew how great of a boxer he was, but I think that was only 20% of what made him as great as he was. [He] basically had to give up a belt and [risked] jail because of his beliefs. It's a guy who stood up for so many different things throughout the times where it was so difficult for African-Americans to even walk in the streets.... The reason why he's the GOAT is not because of what he did in the ring, which was unbelievable. It's what he did outside of the ring, what he believed in, what he stood for, along with Jim Brown and Oscar Robertson, Lew Alcindor—who became Kareem—Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson.... He's part of the reason why African-Americans today can do what we do in the sports world.

WILL SMITH

You shook up the World!

My Mentor & My Friend.

You changed my Life.

Rest in Peace.

HANA ALI(above right)

All of us were around him hugging him and kissing him and holding his hands, chanting the Islamic prayer. All of his organs failed but his HEART wouldn't stop beating. For 30 minutes ... his heart just kept beating. No one had ever seen anything like it. A true testament to the strength of his Spirit and Will!