Celebrating Muhammad Ali: Louisville and the nation remember the Greatest

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Louisville’s Greatest has come home. Muhammad Ali died late last Friday at a Phoenix hospital following health complications. He was 74. The Louisville Lip took the world by storm in both life and now in death, and the outpouring of support, memories, and tributes this week is testament to the legacy of the fighter and humanitarian that helped change the world for the better with his words and actions.

Now the world is looking to Louisville as the city prepares to lay Muhammad Ali to rest. And by all accounts, teams are working around the clock to make sure we’re giving a sendoff deserving of the champ.

“Muhammad Ali died a global icon, a citizen of the world,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement. “But he was first and always a citizen of Louisville, where he was born and raised. This site is devoted to all things Ali in his hometown.”

https://twitter.com/nba2lou/status/740007355501424640

Below is a collection of stories about Muhammad Ali, a roundup of events planned in his honor, and a look back at the life and work of the GOAT. This list is only a small sliver of what has been written and shared following news of Muhammad Ali’s death, and is by no means complete. Please share your additions in the comments below.

Louisville is suddenly at the center of an international spotlight as locals and Ali supporters the world over watch the city that raised a champ. Locally, an outpouring of support has been seen at Muhammad Ali’s boyhood home, recently restored and opened as a museum, at the Muhammad Ali Center, where tributes have been a daily occurrence (a swarm of bees even made an appearance—C-J, WDRB), parades through the streets, and with preparations for Ali’s two funeral services taking place Thursday and Friday at Freedom Hall and the KFC Yum! Center.

Tributes to Muhammad Ali at the Ali Center Plaza. (Courtesy Muhammad Ali Center)
Tributes to Muhammad Ali at the Ali Center Plaza. (Courtesy Muhammad Ali Center)

Thursday at Freedom Hall, a Jenazah, or Islamic funeral prayer, will be held at noon (doors open at 9:00a.m.). The service will be led by Imam Zaid Shakir, a Muslim American scholar and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. “To be properly prepared for burial, prayed over, and then buried is a right owed to every single Muslin,” the Imam said in a statement. The arena is the site of Muhammad Ali’s last fight in Louisville on November 29, 1961, where he defeated Willi Besmanoff.

Friday, a formal funeral service will take place at the KFC Yum! Center at 2:00p.m. Among the honorary guests at Muhammad Ali’s funeral include former President Bill Clinton, Billy Crystal, Bryant Gumbel, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Will Smith, Lennox Lewis, and many of Ali’s relatives. Imam Shakir will lead the funeral service prayers. The Friday event will be streamed live from www.alicenter.org.

TARC, the Transit Authority of River City, is offering free bus service to anyone attending either service, so long as you have secured a ticket. “Eighteen TARC routes that travel throughout the Louisville metropolitan area stop within a few blocks of the KFC Yum! Center downtown,” a press release reads. “The routes provide access to the YUM! Center from all directions into downtown.”

(Courtesy Metro Louisville)
(Courtesy Metro Louisville)

A funeral procession is planned through the city beginning at A.D. Porter & Sons Funeral Home, 4501 Bardstown Road, and ending at Cave Hill Cemetery, 701 Baxter Avenue, which will be closed to the public for the family’s private burial.

The procession begins at 9:00a.m. Friday and will pass by site’s significant to Muhammad Ali’s family, according to the city. The route travels along Bardstown Road to the Watterson Expressway to Interstate 65 to the Ninth Street exit on Interstate 64. The route then moves to Muhammad Ali Boulevard west toward the Ali boyhood home on 34th street. Then back along Broadway to the cemetery. The public is invited to line the streets during the procession.

(Courtesy Metro Louisville)
(Courtesy Metro Louisville)

Metro Louisville has also announced the I Am Ali festival, taking place today, Wednesday, June 8 from 10:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. The event takes place in the lobby of the Kentucky Center for the Arts, 501 West Main Street, and will “celebrate Ali’s life journey and fierce determination as an example to all children that no matter the circumstances, they can be the greatest at anything they choose,” according to the city.

Wayfinding stations around Downtown feature Muhammad Ali imagery. (Courtesy Metro Louisville)
Wayfinding stations around Downtown feature Muhammad Ali imagery. (Courtesy Metro Louisville)

Additionally, the city has launched a website called Ali’s Louisville dedicated to the memory of Muhammad Ali. The site details landmarks around the city with connections to Muhammad Ali, the champ’s boxing career in his hometown, his humanitarian work, among other topics.

All of these events take time and coordination, and Insider Louisville looked behind the scenes at the people making the Muhammad Ali memorials work. Other happenings going on in the city include:


All Eyes on Louisville

Muhammad Ali drives through Smoketown's former Sheppard Square Homes after winning a championship. (Courtesy Courier-Journal / via Metro Louisville)
Muhammad Ali drives through Smoketown’s former Sheppard Square Homes after winning a championship. (Courtesy Courier-Journal / via Metro Louisville)

Obituaries

Tributes to Muhammad Ali at the Ali Center Plaza. (Courtesy Muhammad Ali Center)
Tributes to Muhammad Ali at the Ali Center Plaza. (Courtesy Muhammad Ali Center)
  • Muhammad Ali Dies at 74: Titan of Boxing and the 20th Century (NYTimes) — Muhammad Ali, the three-time world heavyweight boxing champion who helped define his turbulent times as the most charismatic and controversial sports figure of the 20th century, died on Friday in a Phoenix-area hospital. He was 74.
  • Muhammad Ali, boxing icon and global goodwill ambassador, dies at 74 (WaPo) — Muhammad Ali, the charismatic three-time heavyweight boxing champion of the world, who declared himself “the greatest” and proved it with his fists, the force of his personality and his magnetic charisma, and who transcended the world of sports to become a symbol of the antiwar movement of the 1960s and a global ambassador for cross-cultural understanding, died June 3 at a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz., where he was living. He was 74.
  • Boxer Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest Of All Time,’ Dies At 74 (NPR) — Muhammad Ali, the man considered the greatest boxer of all time, died late Friday at a hospital in Phoenix at age 74. He was battling respiratory problems.
  • Muhammad Ali—boxer, activist and provocateur—dead at 74 (Sports Illustrated) — If Muhammad Ali was in his time the most famous person in the world, it was as much a tribute to his talent for provocation as to his boxing. He was a glorious athlete, of course, his white-tasseled feet a blur to match his whizzing fists. But his legacy as a global personality owes more to that glint in his eye, to his capacity for tomfoolery, to his playfulness. He was a born prankster, giddy in his eagerness to surprise, and the world won’t soon forget his insistence upon fun.
  • Muhammad Ali, 1942–2016 (C-J) — Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight boxing champion named Sportsman of the Century by Sports Illustrated magazine, died June 3, 2016. He was 74

Remembering Muhammad Ali

Picturing Ali

(Courtesy University of Louisville / Flickr)
(Courtesy University of Louisville / Flickr)

Ali in Depth

  • The Outsized Life of Muhammad Ali (New Yorker) — What a loss to suffer, even if for years you knew it was coming. Muhammad Ali, who died Friday, in Phoenix, at the age of seventy-four, was the most fantastical American figure of his era, a self-invented character of such physical wit, political defiance, global fame, and sheer originality that no novelist you might name would dare conceive him. (More from WFPL)
  • When Muhammad Ali Made His Broadway Debut (WFPL) — “Buck White,” an Oscar Brown Jr. musical adaptation of Joseph Dolan Tuotti’s play “Big Time Buck White,” is the story of a militant black lecturer who addresses a meeting organized by a black political group. It was produced in December 1969, with Ali playing the titular role. It was Ali’s first and only Broadway acting credit.
  • Exploring The Friendship Between Muhammad Ali And Malcolm X (WFPL)  — In “Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X,” authors Johnny Smith and Randy Roberts dive into the close and complicated friendship of Ali and Malcolm. (More from NPR)
  • Muhammad Ali, The Boxing Poet Who Inspired Liquid Prose (NPR / WFPL) — Maybe it was the way his life transected areas that define America – race and religion; war and sports – or perhaps it was his own love for words. Whatever the reason, Muhammad Ali’s life and career inspired writing that was nearly as captivating as the man himself.
  • The Story Behind That Superman and Muhammad Ali Team Up (io9) — In 1978, one of the strangest and most exhilarating comic book issues in DC’s history appeared in stores, featuring one of the greatest team-ups of all time: Superman and Muhammad Ali.
  • How the world paid tribute to Muhammad Ali (The Independent) — All over the world, fans and followers have gathered to mourn the death of Muhammad Ali, with tributes have been coming in from every country.
  • Why we mourn Ali. (Al Jazeera) — A magnificent poet, principled Muslim and anti-war leader who altered the image of what it means to be American.
  • Embracing the Greatest (The Atlantic) — In order to honor Muhammad Ali, we must first fully understand who he was.
  • Muhammad Ali was the greatest—and it was never enough (Fox Sports) — The most famous man in the world said no to war at the risk of imprisonment by the most powerful nation on earth. It didn’t matter how he came to that decision. It mattered only that he risked his future on it. He never wavered, and he gave heart to millions of ordinary citizens who thought that war was as unwise as it was unjust. He was on the right side of history.
  • The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali (The Nation) —  What Muhammad Ali did—in a culture that worships sports and violence as well as a culture that idolizes black athletes while criminalizing black skin—was redefine what it meant to be tough and collectivize the very idea of courage. Through the Champ’s words on the streets and deeds in the ring, bravery was not only standing up to Sonny Liston. It was speaking truth to power, no matter the cost. He was a boxer whose very presence and persona taught a simple and dangerous lesson: “real men” fight for peace and “real women” raise their voices and join the fray. Or as Bryant Gumbel said years ago, “Muhammad Ali refused to be afraid. And being that way, he gave other people courage.”
  • Africa meant a lot to Muhammad Ali—he meant even more to Africa (Quartz) — Ali Bomaye! One of the most iconic catchphrases in the world of boxing in the Lingala language of central Africa, the chants from an enthusiastic crowd in Kinshasa, host to Muhammad Ali’s championship fight with George Foreman in 1974. It epitomized his connection with Africans.
  • The Best Stories Ever Written About Muhammad Ali (Salon) — A collection of great journalism about the greatest of all time.
  • Muhammad Ali, 1942–2016 (Longform) — Our favorite articles ever written about the Champ.
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