The news of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali's death on Friday night was sudden. But Ali's career and public life spanned decades for most people and everyone will have a different story. Some will remember the athlete, others as a bastion of civil rights in America when the country needed to hear some hard truths. He was a celebrity — everyone on every social platform will remember something. It's 2016 after all. But the most important thing to remember is maybe this one Muhammad Ali quote about his legacy. At least, I would hope my loved ones (and my legions of fans after Taylor Swift and I finally lay down that track), would remember what I wanted to say to the world before I left it. Who doesn't?
Ali wrote in his 2013 autobiography, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life's Journey (summer read alert!) that, actually, he did want to be remembered first and foremost as a champion. But it's more complicated than that, because that's how life is. He wrote:
I would like to be remembered as a man who won the heavyweight title three times, who was humorous, and who treated everyone right. As a man who never looked down on those who looked up to him, and who helped as many people as he could. As a man who stood up for his beliefs no matter what. As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love. And if all that’s too much, then I guess I’d settle for being remembered only as a great boxer who became a leader and a champion of his people. And I wouldn’t even mind if folks forgot how pretty I was.
In fact, in the wake of his death there will be an overload of information about the man circling around the Internet and many different ways to interpret his life. But if he really would like to be remembered for his feelings and values outside of the gym, it might be useful to just go straight to the source. As a world famous athlete and outspoken public figure, Ali has been involved with about ten books about his life. Some he has written, according to the credits, himself, like The Soul of a Butterfly or 2015's The Greatest: My Own Story. On other biographies he has an authorship credit, as well, so if you're really into hearing how the man himself tells his story, you could plow through a lot of literature on the heavyweight champion.
His life is more than just boxing; according to The New York Times, he also tried to open a fast food restaurant during lulls. Ali's story is interesting — this is the guy then President Jimmy Carter considered as an ambassador overseas for America.
It sounds like there are lots of good Ali stories to tell, too many for 140 characters. It might be worth listening to or reading his own words about his life really went down and what he thinks is most important.