Muhammad Ali. Greatest Of All Time.

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These are two stencils of Muhammad Ali. I made them at my mom’s house with an exacto knife and some love. I love Muhammad Ali. bell hooks says love is an action, never simply a feeling. So I try to do things for Ali. And anyways his birthday is coming up.

My first memory of Muhammad Ali came in 1996 when he lit the olympic torch in Atlanta, GA. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t know shit about the guy, so I didn’t care too much to see him up there all struggling like a badass. A couple years later he was named sportsmen of the century by Sports Illustrated. Still ignorant to his greatness, I was pissed off by this decision. Being the front-running young punk that I was, I adored Michael Jordan and thought he was the glaringly obvious choice for this award. Stupid young me.

Years upon years later, if you’d ask me who the top 5 greatest athletes were I wouldn’t hesitate to tell you,

1. Muhammad Ali
2. Muhammad Ali
3. Michael Jordan
4. Bo Jackson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQQQ161c4S4)
5. Serena Williams (17 grand slam titles, oldest to be ranked no.1)

I’d tell you that, and just before I told you that I’d wrap my hairy arms around you and whisper in your ear, “thank you for asking such a delightful question”. The reason for my unflappable conviction is simple. Ali didn’t box from March 1967 to October 1970. He didn’t box during those years because he was exiled from boxing for refusing to be inducted into the armed forces and going to Vietnam. That’s 3.5 years during the peak of his career. His reasons were complex but summed up with Ali’s typical poetic concision, “no Vietcong ever called me nigger”. Volumes have been dedicated to Ali’s life and opinions. He’s the type of person whose life demands that kind of attention. There are beautiful books and illuminating movies about Ali. The best ones will tell you about who Ali was outside the ring. If you look closely you’ll find that not only was he fast and pretty and “can’t possibly be beaten”, but he was unflinching in his courage to fight for racial justice and equality.

Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson were otherworldly talents. They both were breath-taking in their abilities and accomplishments. But Muhammad Ali. Holy gosh, he soars above them like a golden child of a pegasus/MLK/Goku. It’s hard to imagine someone today simultaneously delivering at the highest level athletically and politically. Chris Kluwe is doing a nice job but he’s a punter. Brittney Griner is bringing in the new and outing the old, but still we struggle to create the space for female athletes to shine in the same way as their male counterparts. Lebron James wore his hood up one time but what’s he doing now. Muhammad Ali won the heavyweight title three times while at the same time shattering the notion that sports and politics don’t mix. Hero.

Forgot about how Ali could dance? Watch this:

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