Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Remembers Mentor Muhammad Ali With Heartfelt Eulogy
The mourning of boxing legend Muhammad Ali continues. Ali passed away on June 3 due to septic shock, at aged 74.
Ali was not only known for his prowess in the ring, but also for his social and moral conviction out of it. A notable example was his opposition to participating in the Vietnam War, which led him to be banned from boxing for 3 years during the prime years of his career.
Many celebrities and athletes have taken to social media to eulogize Ali’s exceptional life and career, including Lebron James, Floyd Mayweather, Barack Obama, and JK Rowling.
Recently, former Laker legend, six-time NBA champion, and NBA Most Valuable Player Kareem-Abdul Jabbar took to Facebook to commemorate Ali in the form of a heartfelt short essay. The hoops star and boxing legend have a unique friendship. It was Ali that influenced Abdul-Jabbar to convert to Islam; consequently, the man formerly named Lew Alcindor changed his name to become the hoops icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar we know today. After meeting in the 1960s, Ali served as both friend and mentor to Abdul-Jabbar ever since.
“During my more than 50 years in the public eye, I have met hundreds of renowned celebrities, artists, athletes, and world leaders. But only a handful embodied the self-sacrificing and heroic qualities that defined my friend and mentor, Muhammad Ali,” Abdul-Jabbar writes in the introduction of his eulogy
Read his full eulogy below:
In Memoriam of Muhammad Ali
by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
During my more than 50 years in the public eye, I have met hundreds of renowned celebrities, artists, athletes, and world leaders. But only a handful embodied the self-sacrificing and heroic qualities that defined my friend and mentor, Muhammad Ali. A master of self-promotion, he declared early in his boxing career, I am the greatest! This kind of boasting enraged many people, just as he’d hoped, ensuring a large audience that just wanted to see this upstart boy taught a lesson.
But it was Muhammad who taught the lesson because, as he once said, It’s not bragging if you can back it up. And back it up, he did. Again and again. And not just in the ring. Part of Muhammad’s greatness was his ability to be different things to
different people. 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. At a time when blacks who spoke up about injustice were labeled uppity and often arrested under one pretext or another, Muhammad willingly sacrificed the best years of his career to stand tall and fight for what he believed was right. In doing so, he made all Americans, black and white, stand taller.
I may be 7’2″ but I never felt taller than when standing in his shadow.
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.