REFRESH FOR UPDATES Will Smith, star of 2001’s Ali, wrote on his Facebook page:
You shook up the World!
My Mentor & My Friend.
You changed my Life.
Rest in Peace.
President Barack Obama tweeted his respects this morning:
In a lengthy statement, Obama said, in part, “Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d ‘handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.’
“But what made The Champ the greatest – what truly separated him from everyone else – is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.
“Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.”
Others paying tribute today:
ESPN President John Skipper:
“We are sad to hear of the passing of Muhammad Ali. However, we revel in the memory of his athletic excellence in the ring, we recollect with pleasure the charm of the charismatic young man from Louisville who would shock the world and we celebrate the dramatic achievement of a champion of civil rights who changed the world. In many ways, he was truly the greatest of all time.”
The sports network also released this video tribute to Ali:
PREVIOUS With the news that legendary boxer, philanthropist and civil rights icon Muhammad Ali died today at 74, celebrities, peers, fans and those who knew and worked with him are mourning the man universally acknowledged as “The Greatest”.
Among them is George Foreman, Ali’s adversary in the “Rumble in the Jungle” bout in Zaire and later friend, who mourned the champ as part of himself, saying that “the greatest piece” of him had slipped away.
Former Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson also mourned Ali.
The mayor of Ali’s hometown Louisville, Kentucky was among the first to pay his respects on social media, announcing that tomorrow the city will fly flags at half mast in tribute to the icon. “Thank you, Muhammad,” he said, “for all you’ve given to your city, your country, and the world.”
Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth offered his own tribute, calling Ali “a champion for peace, a champion for justice, and a champion for equality.”
“He was a man who gained fame in a violent game, but immortality as a gentle and caring soul. In the ring, there was no one better, but his contributions to humanity managed to eclipse his boxing prowess… I am just one of the many in Louisville whose heart aches for the loss of my friend, and yet, every corner of our community is better for his impact. At a time when fame so often comes with questionable character, Muhammad Ali is an ever present reminder that the most famous person in the world can be a real life hero. He really was the greatest.”
Relativity’s Adam Fields, who ran Jon Peters’ company as president during the development and production of the boxing film that starred Will Smith, had a particularly good story about the making of Ali. “He was on some diplomatic tour of China and was in a remote village and he said he was very down and felt used by the U.S. government who had sent him on a goodwill tour,” Fields told Deadline. “And he was looking out at a rice patty field and this old lady saw him, stood up and started punching her fists in the air and he was completely elated by it.This was the pre-electronic Internet globalization of the world and he was in one most remote places in the country. He said he was elated that even there they recognized him.”
The other story, Fields was told by the boxer, was when Ali was on a plane and it was getting ready to take off and the flight attendant approached him and said, ‘Please put on your seatbelt’ and Ali said, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt,’ to which the flight attendant replied, “Superman didn’t need no plane. Please put on your seatbelt, Mr. Ali.”
Presidential candiate Donald Trump, who himself was connected to Mike Tyson in his prime, weighed in as well.
Celebrities offered their condolences as well, including Carl Weathers, whose Rocky character Apollo Creed was directly inspired by Ali.
Rap group Public Enemy:
The Big Short director Adam McKay:
Sean “Diddy” Combs:
The Nightly Show:
Other athletes paid tribute as well.