Why Ali was the greatest athlete ever

Who is this boxer Muhammad Ali, who people keep calling The Greatest?

Ali died last week, but his last professional fight was in 1981. Many of us who grew-up in the digital age never actually saw him fight live, but Youtube and ESPN Classic could teach us about his greatness in the ring.

However, Ali’s reach exceeded the boxing ring. Besides becoming one of the greatest heavyweight boxing champions ever, Ali was great as a person, philanthropist, and entertainer.

This explains why many celebrities from all walks of life reacted to his death. Even President Barack Obama said he was the greatest.

Nonetheless, Ali does not need any endorsements as his reputation speaks for itself. Here are five reasons Ali was the greatest athlete ever, as well as a great person too.

1. Ali did magic.

Before players took selfies with you, Ali did magic for his friends, family and fans. There are countless stories about Ali’s fascination with magic.

Muhammad Ali is known to have coined the shortest poem in the English language (2 words)
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) June 4, 2016

Ali did not just float like a butterfly in the boxing ring, he could levitate out of the ring too.

Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., son of boxing legend Ken Norton who boxed Ali in the three historic matches, recently told the Mercury News that Ali would show him his levitation skills.

What other great athlete do you know who doubled as a magician?

I met Ali once, my first year on the Lakers beat, in 1997–98. He was in the Lakers locker room, doing magic tricks. Kobe was in awe.
— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) June 4, 2016

Ali’s magic captivated a fellow G.O.A.T in Kobe Bryant, which speaks words to Ali’s greatness.

2. Ali was a poet.

Ali never attended press conferences just so he would not get fined like some athletes… cough… Marshawn Lynch.

Ali commanded attention each time he spoke. He would call out his opponent in poems.

One example, “Henry, this is no jive. The fight will end in five.” Ali once said in an interview.

When Ali spoke it was magnificent. You can check out some of his most memorable quotes here.

Beyond that, Ali also earns credit for the shortest poem ever.

Muhammad Ali is known to have coined the shortest poem in the English language (2 words)
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) June 4, 2016

How many athletes can say so much in two words? That is why Ali is the greatest athlete and maybe one of the greatest poets.

3. Ali did not give a f*ck

Long before athletes were getting salty, Ali did not care what people thought about him.

He did not care if you thought he was too black or arrogant. Here is an example where Ali calls out a lady for calling him arrogant.

This White Woman Tells Muhammed Ali That He’s Too Arrogant,His Response Is Absolutely Priceless — Atlanta Black Star https://t.co/T7ryj6YipE
— Marlon Kameka (@MarlonKameka) June 6, 2016

This is just one instance where Ali made an enemy, long before social media made athletes speak politically correct.

Don’t forget that Ali pissed a lot of people off by refusing to enlist in the Army for the Vietnam War. Ali’s decision made enemies on the left and right. It cost him prime years of his career, but he still stood up for what he believed in.

Ali also made enemies when changed his name to Muhammad Ali from Cassius Clay. The name change came out of Ali’s devotion to Islam, and his distaste for the inequality in the states.

Ali did not care if he made these enemies. He still said what needed to be said, and he believed. Ali did not care if you agreed with him or his faith.

Even if you’re not spiritual, you must respect him for that strong belief in his faith.

Clearly, Ali was one of the first athletes to not give a f*ck about haters, and he probably had the most hate too.

4. The World Loved Ali.

Ali fought some of his most famous fights abroad. Ali fought Joe Frazier for the third time in Manila for The Thrilla in Manila.

He also fought George Foreman in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” which was held in the DR. Congo, then called Zaire.

“He turned the entire population of Zaire into Ali fans… Ali bomaye Ali bomaye…”#AliTheGreatest #RIPMuhammadAli pic.twitter.com/Q9TaRQK1Oh
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 4, 2016

As Ali entered the ring to fight Foreman, the crowd infamously chanted, “Ali Boom-aye,” which translates to Ali kill him.

Not to mention, Ali received love anywhere in Africa. His book The Greates: My Own Story also tells about the love he got in places like London.

Further, Ali helped release hostages from Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Ali’s role in getting hostages released from Iraq in 1991 has been overlooked in many tributes. Read words on side. pic.twitter.com/fylKe8PYX4
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) June 8, 2016

What other athlete do you know that did something with that much international politics on the line?

5. Ali was a good dude.

Don’t get it twisted. Ali was not perfect.

He did consistently seem like a good dude. When asked about retirement Ali talked about helping people.

The late Muhammed Ali on retirement and old age #WASPIhttps://t.co/60fsvEvbxq
— Betty-Ann cook (@CkbacookAnn) June 4, 2016

Ali sounds great in the clip above, but doing good was more than just words for Ali. The Champ did actually travel a lot for charities into his old age.

There are also plenty of anecdotes talking about how Ali would pick up and play with dirty children. He would talk to cooks and chefs. He would sign every autograph and shake every hand.

Ali even saved one guy from jumping from a building to his death.

Muhammad Ali saves man from suicide jump https://t.co/zQUW1XWqUD
— john shahidi (@john) June 4, 2016

Ali’s devotion to the people made him the People’s Champ and the greatest athlete ever.

What Ali means to me

Notice that there were not a lot of notes on Ali’s boxing career included in the reasons for his greatness. That is precisely why he is The Greatest.

Ali’s reputation expanded beyond his 56–5 professional record as a heavyweight boxer. Once you factor in his dominance of boxing, it is clear Ali is the greatest athlete that ever lived.

Most people know of Ali the legend from tributes on Instagram and Facebook. However, this generation of Millennials should do themselves a favor by reading about Ali as a person. He was not only the greatest athlete that ever lived, but he was also a great person too.

Every time I finish reading a story about Ali, I feel unstoppable. When I was a boy, I read his This I believe and I was captivated.

I saw him speak about his refusal to join the Vietnam War effort and I was hooked.

I enjoyed Ali’s way to speak magnificently. I enjoyed the fact that he said and did as he thought was right. I envied his confidence and command even in his old age. I loved the way people lingered over his every word.

Ali was and is the greatest.

When he passed, I cried for the world. I knew the devoted Ali would find the gates of heaven. I knew his legacy would live on. However, the world would never have an athlete change the world like Ali did.