Before the tip of Game 2 of the 2016 NBA Finals on Sunday night, the NBA paused briefly to honor the late, great Muhammad Ali, who died Friday, with a moment of silence:
The legendary boxer and iconic figure died at age 74 after being hospitalized in the Phoenix area with respiratory problems earlier in the week; according to a family spokesperson, the cause of death was septic shock. Ali had suffered from Parkinson’s disease since 1984.
During Saturday’s media availability between Finals games, members of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers spoke in reverent tones about how Ali — one of the greatest boxers of all time, and one of the most singular, irrepressible and inspirational figures in all of sporting culture — impacted their lives and developments, through both his peerless work in the ring and his willingness to speak out on the social issues that mattered to him, including his famed conscientious objection to the Vietnam war, which cost him his world heavyweight championship and nearly his freedom.
“What he did can never really be fully explained, understood or comprehended because of the society we live in right now and the way our world works,” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said, according to Shaun Powell of NBA.com. “We’re fighting for nothing now, compared to what our few leaders fought for back then. He was willing to stand his ground and not sell out, which is very rare. In the history of our country, especially for my people, for a guy to go away from what he does to make a living and sacrifice for his people to let them know that we have a power and we can stand for something, but we have to be willing to make a sacrifice so we can move forward … that’s very rare.”
“What he stood for, I mean, it’s a guy who basically had to give up a belt and [relinquish] everything that he had done because of what he believed in,” James said of Ali. “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.
“For an athlete like myself today, without Muhammad Ali, I wouldn’t be sitting up here talking in front of you guys. I wouldn’t be able to walk in restaurants. I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere where blacks weren’t allowed back in those days [if it weren’t for] guys like Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Lew Alcindor, Jackie Robinson, and the list goes on and on.”
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