SPORTS INSIDER WEEKLY – ‘The Greatest’ Muhammad Ali passes away at 74; Warriors lead Cleveland 2-0 in NBA Finals


Ceci Ferrara
June 6, 2016
Sports Writer
Sports Insider

You don’t need to be a boxing fan to know the name Muhammad Ali. The superstar boxer who fought Parkinson’s disease for more than three decades was also a civil rights figure and one of the most celebrated and significant sports figures of the 20th century.

Ali lost his battle to the debilitating disease on Friday, June 3 at the age of 74.

The heavy weight champion who was born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY in 1942, gained fame–and notoriety–as the outspoken and self-proclaimed “greatest” boxer of all time. Though his progressive neurological disease robbed him of his physical dexterity and eventually voice, Ali will be remembered for his numerous accomplishments both in and out of the ring.

After changing his name in his early 20s to honor both his Muslim faith and racial pride, Ali became a prominent figure in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He never backed down from his beliefs, even when it made things hard. After being convicted of draft evasion in 1967, Ali was unable to secure a license to box for over three years, all of which during the prime of his career. But for him, it was a small price to pay for standing up for his opposition to the Vietnam War.

Even as his physicality failed him, the heavy weight champion never wavered in his beliefs. Last fall, in response to the terrorist attack in Paris and Donald Trump’s idea to ban Muslims from this country, Ali issued a rare public statement which read: “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.”

As the world mourns a sports hero and American icon, the tributes to the boxer flood in. While most acknowledge his athletic accomplishments, that is never the central theme. Ali transcended barriers and borders, and taught others to fight, even against all the odds.

“It’s worth remembering that we live in a country where people can break down barriers, where they can worship their own God, where they can choose their own name,” Hillary Clinton said.

NBA Finals

So far, the NBA Finals has looked more like a talent showcase for the Golden State Warriors than a rematch of the two best teams in the NBA.

After the first two games, the Warriors have a commanding 2-0 lead over Cleveland, who has struggled thus far in the series. They were unable to contain Golden State’s offense in Game 1, despite subpar performances by stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Warriors’ bench picked up the slack for a 104-89 Golden State victory.

The Cavs were hoping to bounce back in Game 2; a victory would’ve tied things up before the series headed to Cleveland for the next two games. Instead, they were once again unable to compete with the Warriors’ explosive offensive. After a 110-77 rout the Cavs are now in an 0-2 hole against a team that has been nearly unbeatable all season.

“I think our focus has been there. We’ve really locked in on the game plan,” said Golden State’s Draymond Green. “The intensity level has been there, and most importantly we’ve gotten it done on the defensive side of the basketball. To hold this team to 77 points, that’s a very good ballclub, that’s not something that’s easy to do. But we really locked in. We stuck to the game plan, and we’ve been able to do that. So that’s great and all.”

Historically, things don’t look good for the Cavs. Just 4-of-32 teams that have trailed 0-2 in the finals have found a way to climb back into the competition to win. But LeBron James, who finished the game with a disappointing 19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, isn’t throwing in the towel yet.

“I won’t be reflecting,” said James after the loss. “I’ll figure out ways I can be better, starting as soon as I leave this podium.”

The Cavs host the Warriors in a must-win Game 3 on Wednesday night in Cleveland.


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