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"The Greatest" Turns 81 Today

Genius Turner
Muhammad Ali was a great boxer in the ring but an even greater "fighter" in life.Photo by(Mark Mathosian/Flickr)

Even in death, Muhammad Ali's legacy looms larger than ever

New York City — “I Love New York," Ali once told Robert Lipsyte, a sports writer for The New York Times. Indeed, Ali, known for routinely training in Gleason's Gym, lived some of his most iconic moments in the City of Dreams.

"Michael Jordan is the best athlete," said Wilbon, "but Muhammad Ali is the greatest."

Wilbon went on to explain "greatness" transcends mere athleticism. After all, greatness isn't measured by fame and money but by courage and heart. Character, then, ultimately judges greatness.

Circumstances reveal character...

...In 1966, Ali refused to be drafted into the military. He opposed fighting in a war. New York City became the heart of his fight outside the ring — with both the US government and the boxing establishment. Indeed, Ali paid the ultimate price.

Stripped of his heavyweight championship, he then faced prison time. In short, sacrificing the prime of his boxing career reflects why suffering is the price of greatness.

When Ali finally made his triumphant return to the ring, once again New York City served as centerstage. Ali and Fraizer fought for all the titles in Madison Square Garden. Today, it's regarded as the "biggest boxing match in history."

Perhaps it's only right Muhammad Ali's birthday is a day after MLK Day. Aside from celebrating birthdays the same week, Ali and MLK share something else in common. Because love is a verb, both showed why the greatest expression of love is sacrifice.

For many around the world, Ali's birthday is holiday-worthy as well. If I had to choose one sentence to sum up Ali's legacy on his birthday, it would be this:

"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life." — Muhammad Ali

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New York City, NY

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