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Muhammad Ali is the only one with a permanent spot on the Mt. Rushmore of sports

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 27: Muhammad Ali attends the 2014 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards at the Louisville Marriott Downtown on September 27, 2014 in Louisville, United States. (Photo by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images)

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 27: Muhammad Ali attends the 2014 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards at the Louisville Marriott Downtown on September 27, 2014 in Louisville, United States. (Photo by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images)

If there were a Mt. Rushmore for sports, there would be great debate ... over the other three spots.

The one lock passed away Friday at the age of 74. Muhammad Ali was bigger than any other sports figure. He transcended sports in a way no other athlete has, and will. Muhammad Ali is your favorite athlete's favorite athlete.

Sure, there will always be a lot of argument over who was the best boxer of all time. Ali was the three-time heavyweight champion of the world during the golden age of heavyweights. He was blessed with dazzling speed, guile and creativity. Boxing, given its extensive history and all of its weight classes lends itself to cross-era debate as much as any other sport we have. Was it Ali? Sugar Ray Robinson? Willie Pep? Joe Louis? Benny Leonard? Henry Armstrong? I'll defer to the boxing historians to sort that one out.

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Ali, though, was so much bigger than boxing. That's why all the news channels this weekend have scrapped all their programming to try and provide more insight and context into who he was and what he meant to people.

RIP Muhammad Ali. One of a kind. pic.twitter.com/CzXbt8f4LB

— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) June 4, 2016

Many of our sports heroes are our heroes, to a degree bound by our borders in uniquely American sports. As great talents as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Bo Jackson and so many others were, they weren't global icons. Michael Jordan, LeBron James and many soccer stars have status all over the world but none of them will mean as much to people of all races as Ali.

He stood for something and stood up to something, and did so at the time when it certainly wasn't popular, and it wasn't easy. He refused to be drafted as a conscientious objector, risking being jailed and was stripped of his title and ended up losing over three years of his boxing career in his prime. Ali risked everything to stand up for something. These days sports stars often appear to go out of their way to stand up for nothing.

I've always felt certain sports heroes because of the magnitude of their triumphs and the adversity they overcame were much more significant than any championship rings, records or stats. Given the climate of World War II and what they did with the world watching, Joe Louis and Jesse Owens hold special places in our history. Jackie Robinson does, too, for his courage and dignity in breaking baseball's color barrier. Their greatness was bigger than merely sports in our history. They are heroes, not just sports heroes. Ali's was too, stretching into a different and more complicated landscape.

Ali was the most charismatic figure our nation has produced. He was deified and vilified during one of the most turbulent times in our history for his religious and political positions. He spoke and acted like no athlete the sports world had seen. It was boastful and poetic and hysterical and at times cruel. It wasn't always pretty or artful. His banter directed at his biggest rival, Joe Frazier, especially so. But Ali also evolved as our society evolved. He became a statesman.

Ali was a canvas for us. Many of the most revered pieces in the history of sports journalism are Ali-related. So are the most iconic sports photos of all time.

Photo by Neil Leifer pic.twitter.com/yWHn0pMqR3

— Rabih Alameddine (@rabihalameddine) June 4, 2016

Ali was also the subject of the greatest sports photograph ever taken, by Neil Leifer of SI pic.twitter.com/zNgsRx0kFT

— Paul Myerberg (@PaulMyerberg) June 4, 2016

Of all the things you will read and hear this weekend, of course, Ali himself summed up his own legacy best.

Unsurprisingly, he said it best himself. #MuhammedAli pic.twitter.com/G1BykvvzfF

— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 4, 2016

(Who would you put on your Mt. Rushmore of sports?)

The one lock passed away Friday at the age of 74. Muhammad Ali was bigger than any other sports figure. He transcended sports in a way no other athlete ever has, and ever will. Muhammad Ali is your favorite athlete's favorite athlete.

Sure, there's always be a lot of argument over who was the best boxer of all time. Ali was the three-time heavyweight champion of the world during the golden age of heavyweights. He was blessed with dazzling speed, guile and creativity. Boxing, given its extensive history and all of its weight classes lends itself to cross-era debate as any other sport we have. Was it Ali? Sugar Ray Robinson? Willie Pep? Joe Louis? Benny Leonard? Henry Armstrong? I'll defer to the boxing historians to sort that one out.

Ali, though, was so much bigger than boxing. That's why all the news channels this weekend have scrapped all their programming to try and provide more insight and context into who he was and what he meant to people.

Many of our sports heroes are our heroes, to a degree bound by our borders in uniquely American sports. As great talents as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Bo Jackson and so many others were, they weren't global icons. Michael Jordan, LeBron James and many soccer stars have status all over the world but none of them will ever mean as much to people of all races as Ali does. He stood for something and stood up to something, and did so at the time when it certainly wasn't popular, and it wasn't easy. He refused to be drafted as a conscientious objector, risking being jailed and was stripped of his title and ended up losing over three years of his boxing career in his prime. Ali risked everything to stand up for something. These days sports stars often appear to go out of their way to stand up for nothing.

I've always felt certain sports heroes because of the magnitude of their triumphs and the adversity they overcame were much more significant than any championship rings, records or stats. Given the climate of World War II and what they did with the world watching, Joe Louis and Jesse Owens hold special places in our history. Jackie Robinson does too for his courage and dignity in breaking baseball's color barrier. Their greatness was bigger than merely sports in our history. They are heroes, not just sports heroes. Ali's was too, stretching into a different and more complicated landscape.

Ali was the most charismatic figure our nation has ever produced. He was deified and vilified during the one of the most turbulent times in our history for his religious and political positions. He spoke and acted like no athlete the sports world had ever seen. It was boastful and poetic and hysterical and at times cruel. It wasn't always pretty or artful. His banter directed at his biggest rival, Joe Frazier, especially so. But Ali also evolved as our society evolved. He became a statesman.

Ali was a canvass for us. Many of the most revered pieces in the history of sports journalism are Ali-related. So are the most iconic sports photos of all time.

https://twitter.com/rabihalameddine/status/739093124023091203

https://twitter.com/PaulMyerberg/status/738954969290833920

Of all the things you will read and hear this weekend, of course, Ali himself summed up his own legacy best.

https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/739029528413143040

If we had a Mt. Rushmore for sports, there would be great debate but it would all be over the other three spots.

The one lock passed away Friday at the age of 74. Muhammad Ali was bigger than any other sports figure. He transcended sports in a way no other athlete ever has, and ever will. Muhammad Ali is your favorite athlete's favorite athlete.

Sure, there's always be a lot of argument over who was the best boxer of all time. Ali was the three-time heavyweight champion of the world during the golden age of heavyweights. He was blessed with dazzling speed, guile and creativity. Boxing, given its extensive history and all of its weight classes lends itself to cross-era debate as any other sport we have. Was it Ali? Sugar Ray Robinson? Willie Pep? Joe Louis? Benny Leonard? Henry Armstrong? I'll defer to the boxing historians to sort that one out.

Ali, though, was so much bigger than boxing. That's why all the news channels this weekend have scrapped all their programming to try and provide more insight and context into who he was and what he meant to people.

Many of our sports heroes are our heroes, to a degree bound by our borders in uniquely American sports. As great talents as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Bo Jackson and so many others were, they weren't global icons. Michael Jordan, LeBron James and many soccer stars have status all over the world but none of them will ever mean as much to people of all races as Ali does. He stood for something and stood up to something, and did so at the time when it certainly wasn't popular, and it wasn't easy. He refused to be drafted as a conscientious objector, risking being jailed and was stripped of his title and ended up losing over three years of his boxing career in his prime. Ali risked everything to stand up for something. These days sports stars often appear to go out of their way to stand up for nothing.

I've always felt certain sports heroes because of the magnitude of their triumphs and the adversity they overcame were much more significant than any championship rings, records or stats. Given the climate of World War II and what they did with the world watching, Joe Louis and Jesse Owens hold special places in our history. Jackie Robinson does too for his courage and dignity in breaking baseball's color barrier. Their greatness was bigger than merely sports in our history. They are heroes, not just sports heroes. Ali's was too, stretching into a different and more complicated landscape.

Ali was the most charismatic figure our nation has ever produced. He was deified and vilified during the one of the most turbulent times in our history for his religious and political positions. He spoke and acted like no athlete the sports world had ever seen. It was boastful and poetic and hysterical and at times cruel. It wasn't always pretty or artful. His banter directed at his biggest rival, Joe Frazier, especially so. But Ali also evolved as our society evolved. He became a statesman.

Ali was a canvass for us. Many of the most revered pieces in the history of sports journalism are Ali-related. So are the most iconic sports photos of all time.

https://twitter.com/rabihalameddine/status/739093124023091203

https://twitter.com/PaulMyerberg/status/738954969290833920

Of all the things you will read and hear this weekend, of course, Ali himself summed up his own legacy best.

https://twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/739029528413143040