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Muhammad Ali - Fly Like a Bird, Sting Like a Bee


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Muhammad Ali - Fly Like a Bird, Sting Like a Bee

Muhammad Ali - Fly Like a Bird, Sting Like a Bee

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Ali's mountaintop training camp in Deer Lake, Pa., 1977 - Michael Brennan: "I had attempted this picture on numerous previous occasions, with no success. Ali and I both needed to be precisely where we were at that exact moment for this image to exist. As he prepared for his 1977 collision with the dangerous and fearsome puncher Earnie Shavers, it all came together in one moment for this ever inspiring image. The picture was taken at Muhammad's mountaintop training camp at Deer Lake during his preparation for his Sept. 29 bout with Shavers held at New York City's Madison Square Garden. It was probably taken on Sept. 17. Ali was down on most of the judges' cards going into the last rounds. However, he produced a masterful final three minutes to pull off a controversial victory. Many years later, he ran his right index finger over the photo and whispered to no one in particular, 'I can feel the texture of all the sweat and hard work. I can feel my life.' The portrait, titled 1977, is now part of the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C." Michael Brennan is a documentary and celebrity photographer.

Ali at his training camp in Pennsylvania, 1978 - Dr. Harry Edwards: “As a 1960s sports activist, I stood in profound awe and admiration of Muhammad Ali as he steadfastly risked everything in deference to his religious beliefs and political convictions. For me and millions around the world, his courage and commitment elevated him from the greatest boxer of his era to a transcendent and enduring cultural hero and icon whose life and contributions helped define the character of a generation both within and beyond the sports arena. It has been an honor and a privilege to know him.” - Dr. Harry Edwards is a sociologist whose work focuses on the experiences of African-American athletes. He is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ali, right, fights Joe Frazier in Manila, 1975 - Ferdie Pacheco: “I, a lowly physician of the Miami ghetto, got on the Ali train when he started in the Fifth Street Gym. I was there in every fight and through all of his troubled public life. It was a wild ride. It was great fun. The most memorable moment was at the Ali-Frazier 'Thrilla in Manila,' where death was in the ring at the end of the fight. One more round and one of them was going to die." - Ferdie Pacheco was Ali's cornerman and physician from 1962 to 1977 and later became a television boxing commentator.

Ali before his match against Leon Spinks in New Orleans, 1978 - Bill Walton: "Happy birthday, Champ! And after all these years, how remarkable it is that you still remain, simply, 'The Greatest.' We are eternally grateful for your sacrifice, vision, leadership and courage. We salute you for your power, finesse, intellect, creativity, imagination and the ability to deliver inspiration and peak performance on command. But mostly we want to say thank you!" - Bill Walton is a former ABC, ESPN and NBC basketball announcer and NBA All-Star basketball player.

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Ali during a weeklong protest against the Vietnam War draft in San Francisco, 1968 - Tommie Smith: "The blink in his eye when he was socially bound and stripped from his heavyweight boxing title." Tommie Smith is a former Olympic athlete in track and field.

Ali in San Pedro, Ivory Coast, 1997 - Ann Curry: "This man has committed himself in a way most people don’t fully realize. I think it’s hard to quantify humanitarian impact. You win a title, and they give you a fancy belt and your name up in lights. When you make children less hungry, when you ease suffering, when you make people less afraid, when you increase equality in the world, there’s not as much fanfare or attention, but the impact actually is deeper and long lasting. I'm here to say that and stand up for him on his 70th birthday.” - Ann Curry is a news journalist, NBC Today show anchor and Dateline NBC host.

Ali with the photographer’s son Corey in Lewiston, Maine, 1965 - Bob Gomel: "Ali has two personas — one public, one private. With my wife, two boys and our German shepherd in tow, I covered the preparation for his rematch with Sonny Liston in Lewiston, Maine, for LIFE magazine. Ali could not have been more solicitous and caring. He and his brother Rahaman kept a kosher Muslim kitchen at Jack Paar's hotel and provided sterilization of the reusable milk-bottle nipples for our youngest son Barry. The braggadocio and histrionics were strictly for show. The Ali we knew was a considerate and warmhearted man." Bob Gomel is a former LIFE magazine photographer.

Ali, 1972 - Michael J. Fox: "When he declared himself 'The Greatest,' he didn't say the greatest boxer, athlete or horse's ass for that matter — he didn’t care. He supplied the adjective; selecting the appropriate noun was your business. He just said, 'The Greatest of All Time.' And I agree." Michael J. Fox is an Emmy Award–winning actor and Parkinson's activist.

Ali in Chicago, 1966 - Richard Stengel: "Muhammad Ali was one of the great inventors of the 20th century. He invented a new way to box ("float like a butterfly, sting like a bee"), he invented a new way for athletes and celebrities to talk about themselves (the heck with modesty: "I am the greatest"), and he essentially invented the modern way for public figures to have a social cause for which they made a true sacrifice (Ali's conscientious-objector status during the Vietnam War took him out of the ring for nearly three years in his prime). So much of the world we live in was pioneered by Muhammad Ali." Richard Stengel is the managing editor of TIME magazine.

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Ali in Washington, D.C., 1976 - Diana Walker: "I was just starting out as a freelance photographer when I took this picture of Ali — or was he Cassius Clay then? It was April 1976. I knew nothing about boxing. I had never photographed a boxer. I knew nothing. I just knew, when I saw him that day in the ring and heard him declare he could 'float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,' that he was a true star: he had it all over him. He was sparring for the press, talking in rhymes about his upcoming fight with Jimmy Young. I was there with a great friend who was doing a freelance piece for the Village Voice. You could say neither of us was very experienced or seasoned ... maybe not knowing the rules very well helped us get closer to Muhammad Ali!"Diana Walker is longtime contributor to TIME magazine.

Ali in Chicago, 1976 - Harry Benson:: "It was 1976, America's bicentennial. I asked Ali to pose as George Washington for a portrait. When I arrived in Chicago, Ali changed his mind and said, 'I won't pose as Washington, he had slaves. I want to be a slave.' I had to find an authentic slave costume with no zips or buttons, just tied together with rope, in two hours on a Sunday. My taxi driver knew of a seamstress who came to my rescue. Ali was pleased with the outfit and said he knew exactly where he wanted the photo taken. So off we went to a park on the South Side of Chicago. As we walked into the park, I carried the chains around Ali's legs so he wouldn't trip. We walked up a slight hill. Looking down into the ravine below we saw several young black men with stocking caps on their heads, drinking beer and talking. Ali looked at them and started shouting at the top of his lungs, 'Look at me! Look at what this white man has done to me! Brothers, he has me in chains! Why are you standing there? Look at me!' I hesitated as their expressions changed from surprise to serious, and I must say, a bit menacing. I looked around to see if I could out-run them, but there was no way. Finally Ali broke into laughter and hugged me, and the tension subsided. After the shoot, as we were walking to the car, a young boy came up to Ali who graciously and quietly shook his hand. A memorable day if I do say so!" - Harry Benson is a world-renowned photographer.

Ali in New York City, 1984 - Michael Tighe: "I shot this photo in 1984 when the world was just starting to learn about his affliction with Parkinson’s syndrome. I had shot him 10 years earlier when he was the champ, so it was very difficult seeing him like this, our hero. I shot him a third time in 1999 for Athlete of the Century at his farm in Indiana. When the shoot was over, my assistants and I were invited to have lunch with him and his family at their house. I brought a print of this photo, which I presented to him after lunch. He had never seen it. I handed it to him. He stared at it quietly for a long beat. His eyes watered up, and he handed it back. Everyone got very quiet and uneasy. Then he gestured with the most beautiful smile for me to sign it for him. I got teary-eyed. It is the most cherished moment of my photographer’s life." Michael Tighe is a portrait photographer.

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Ali playing Monopoly at home in Louisville, Ky., 1963 - Steve Schapiro: "In 1963 I played Monopoly with Ali, then Cassius Clay, at his parents' house in Louisville. Ali did not want me to lose at the game, because if I lost, all my remaining money and property would go back to the bank. He kept loaning me Monopoly money so that at the end of the game he, not the bank, would have won everything on the board. Ali carried his Monopoly set all around town, finding people to play with him, young and old." Steve Schapiro is a photographer who extensively covered the civil rights movement.

Platon: "I never thought I would get to meet and photograph Muhammad Ali. I remember feeling overwhelmed as I rang the doorbell. Looking down, there was a giant doormat, with a capital letter A woven into the fabric. It occurred to me that there were two things that make Ali 'the Greatest' — perhaps the greatest man that ever lived. Firstly, his physical power, beauty, speed and agility, and secondly, his unique skills as an orator. Sadly, as I stepped over the letter A, I realized that Parkinson’s disease had robbed the man of these two strengths. How in the world could I take a portrait of Muhammad Ali that is a fitting tribute to his contribution to the 20th century? As he silently shuffled into the room, my path became clear. Though robbed of his physical armor, he revealed to me that most important thing of all: his spirit and strength of character. It was, after all, his heart that informed his political, competitive and spiritual quests. In this picture, I focus entirely on Muhammad Ali the human being. Here there is no playacting or gimmicks. As the modernists always said, less is more. As his eyes closed, his hand gently rose to caress his brow. No one ever thought that Muhammad Ali could be so tender and sensitive. As we finished the shoot, he was helped into his soft leather chair. His nurse switched on the TV — Muhammad loves to watch westerns and Elvis movies. A tray was placed on his lap, and a box of dominoes was opened — I was told it is his favorite pastime. I knelt by his feet, and together, we played dominoes for a few last minutes. As I made a cheeky connection with two dots on the domino pieces, his enlarged hand grabbed my shoulder, and he grunted a mischievous appreciation. I left his house feeling so honored that I had experienced a true connection with the legend, but more important, the man — Muhammad Ali." - Platon is a renowned portrait photographer.

Ali's home, Berrien Springs, Mich., 1996 - Walter Iooss Jr.: "I wanted to do an Annie picture that day — Annie Leibovitz, that is. As we drove into his estate, the fence was the first thing to catch my eye, but I wasn't sure how to incorporate it into a photograph. Then Ali came out on a bike, and the image came together. Serendipity at its best." Walter Iooss Jr. is a Sports Illustrated photographer.

Ali and Michael J. Fox, New York City, 2004 - Mark Seliger: "After the shoot, the champ was signing a Neil Leifer print of his legendary fight with Sonny Liston that I have hanging in my house. He wrote, 'Love is the net where hearts are caught like fish' across the bottom of the print, and when he made a mistake, he would fix it by inking in the miswritten letter with a big black heart." - Mark Seliger is a renowned portrait photographer.

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Muhammad Ali vs. Cleveland Williams at the Astrodome, Houston, 1966 - Neil Leifer: "I think this is the best picture I ever made. It's the only picture of mine that I have in my home. I could go on for a long time about the technical aspects of the shot, how I studied the Astrodome, planned the photo for weeks before the fight, pictured the shot in my head, rigged up the remote trigger that I used to get the shot from above while I was physically down at ringside shooting the fight — but what makes this so special to me is that it's as close as I've ever gotten to a perfect shot. Ali, Williams, the referee, the reporters, the symmetry, the drama — it's the one photograph I've taken where, looking back, I'd change nothing." NOTE: Leifer is visible here, wearing a light blue shirt and seated near the top along the left-hand side of the ring, with his camera resting in front of him. Neil Leifer is a photographer for Sports Illustrated.

Houston — Muhammad Ali with his attorney Hayden Covington, right, on June 19, 1967, at the federal courthouse in Houston, where Ali was tried for draft evasion after he refused to be inducted into the armed services. "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong," Ali famously said.

Lewiston, Maine — On May 25, 1965, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston after dropping Liston with a short hard right to the jaw. Ali had upset Liston to win the title 15 months before.

Ali and Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X leave a theater after viewing a screening of a film about Ali's title fight with Sonny Liston.

Muhammad Ali's birthday, photos through the years

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Miami Beach, Fla. — On Feb. 18, 1964, the Beatles -- from left, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison -- take a break from conquering America to clown around with the future champ on a visit to his training camp.

Clay with his first wife, Sonji, in 1964, the year he changed his name to Muhammad Ali after converting to the Muslim faith.

Muhammad Ali's birthday, photos through the years

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Louisville, Ky. — Clay prepares to take his mother, Odessa Grady Clay, for a ride in a new Cadillac convertible on April 4, 1963.

Muhammad Ali's birthday, photos through the years

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The home (today) in Louisville where Ali grew up.

Muhammad Ali's birthday, photos through the years

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Ali in the ring