Muhammad Ali was born Jan. 17, 1942 and would have turned 77-years-old on Thursday.
Nicknamed simply “The Greatest,” the greatest boxer of all time had more impact on our culture than perhaps any other athlete to ever live. It wasn’t what Ali did inside the ring that defined him, but what he did outside of it. (RELATED: The Sports World Continues Comparing Kaepernick To Muhammad Ali)
Born Cassius Clay, Ali converted to Islam and changed his name in 1964, claiming that Clay was his “slave name.” Ali ended up growing resentful of his home country due to discrimination he and other African Americans encounter. Ali famously refused to serve in Vietnam, for which he was sentenced to jail, but his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court.
This led Ali to become a source of great polarization. While Ali’s legacy is largely positive today, he was mostly intensely hated or intensely loved over the course of his career.
Ali was also known for his legendary cockiness and for coining the famous phrase, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
Ultimately, however one feels about Ali and his service, none can deny the impact that he had and still has on our culture. He was never afraid to stare down his critics and show them how great he was.
Because of all of that, Ali’s legacy endures perhaps more than any athlete in American sports history.