"He was respected for having sacrificed more than three years of his boxing prime and untold millions of dollars for his antiwar principles after being banished from the ring; he was extolled for his un-self-conscious gallantry in the face of incurable illness, and he was beloved for his accommodating sweetness in public. In 1996, he was trembling and nearly mute as he lit the Olympic caldron in Atlanta. That passive image was far removed from the exuberant, talkative, vainglorious 22-year-old who bounded out of Louisville, Ky., and onto the world stage in 1964 with an upset victory over Sonny Liston to become the world champion. The press called him the Louisville Lip. He called himself the Greatest."
From "Muhammad Ali, Titan of Boxing and the 20th Century, Dies at 74."
ALSO: "But Ali had his hypocrisies, or at least inconsistencies. How could he consider himself a 'race man' yet mock the skin color, hair and features of other African-Americans, most notably Joe Frazier, his rival and opponent in three classic matches? Ali called him 'the gorilla,' and long afterward Frazier continued to express hurt and bitterness."
AND: From my perspective, as someone who was 13 years old in 1964 when Cassius Clay emerged in the popular culture, he seemed to have invented self-promoting bragging. My parents' generation held values of modesty and sportsmanship. You shouldn't verbalize your self-esteem, especially in a way that vaunted yourself over others. You should achieve and be admirable and then, perhaps, other people will praise you.
As my parents and their coevals saw it, Clay was teaching the young people the wrong values, including the idea that you can push beyond your area of actual achievement — in Clay's case, boxing — and insult your opponents about something unrelated — such as the way they look. You could not only call yourself beautiful, but the other person ugly. To young people, like me, that seemed very funny and fun and liberating.
(I don't really want to mention Donald Trump in this post, but the connection is too obvious. Who are we? How did we get here?)