Life and death of an icon who transcended sport
What could have been arrogance was charm, what could have been smart aleckry was poetry, what could have been trash talk was defiant comedy, what could have been brutality and mere sport was grace and beauty.
Everything about him was enhanced through the prism of his incredible charisma, to give it a spark of the divine. Even his second act, this beautiful, intelligent creature reduced to what could have seemed like a broken old man - broken by the very thing that made him a god - transcended tragedy to become a lesson in dignity and humanity.
He was transcendent. He transcended sport, race, religion, the '60s, the counterculture, show business, politics and even Vietnam ("I ain't got nothing against no Viet Cong - no Viet Cong never called me nigger"). He tussled with all those things and floated through them dispensing the odd bee sting, for a period even turning on the white people who worshipped him. But none of these things defined him. He was always more - more than any of it, more than just a sportsman, more than just a Muslim.