In the wake of the death of Muhammad Ali late Friday evening, we've see nothing but an outpouring of love, sweet tributes, and endless quotes in honor of the original GOAT. Ali was a pillar of his community. What he gave in bravado inside and out of the ring, he matched in his endless dedication to charity, to his family, and to his friends. It's inevitable that a majority of the stories and tweets we are seeing today are coming from many celebrity social media profiles. The ways in which we are honoring Ali — for his confidence, his skill, his embraceable charm — are truly touching to behold. So, it should come as no surprise that in paying tribute to a great man, an old photo has been dug up and rightfully brought out again as a way to remember the boxing legend.
The year was 1997. The occasion was a small meet and greet before a press conference. The two men meeting? Ali and (as he was known then) The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. The two industry titans shared a private conference together, and, luckily, the pictures that have lived on from this meeting showcase nothing but love. It's the kind of celebrity meeting that tugs at the heartstrings, especially considering both men have now passed on. But it's the story behind the photo that positively uplifts the legacy of the two icons.
Both men had gathered to speak at a press conference promoting "The World Healing Honors," a benefit concert being given to raise money for charities that sought to eliminate bigotry and racial prejudice around the world. During the press conference, Prince made it known that he was wholeheartedly on board, citing Ali's involvement and his own personal adoration of the boxing champion as his reasons for joining the cause.
My friend called me a couple of days ago and asked me. He said, "Muhammad wants you to—" and I said "Yes." ... I didn’t even let him finish. He could have said, "Mow the lawn," and I would have been down with it. Muhammad’s my hero. He has been since I was a child. As you can see, he’s such an inspiration to many people.
This meeting speaks to the profound effect Ali had on others. He was not merely a celebrity. He was not merely a top sportsman. He was also a man working to affect change and others recognized that. He broke through the facade of celebrity in order to draw the attention of others to a real cause. It was this quality that Prince felt kinship with. Both men worked in their lifetimes to promote equality and an end to racial intolerance, often using their spirituality as a guiding hand in their endeavors. This picture serves as a lasting memory of a time when the superficial elements of celebrity were left at the door in favor of two men using their status to draw visibility to an issue. This picture also reminds us that it doesn't matter who you are, when you are in the presence of meaningful greatness, you will be forever changed.