AceShowbiz - Muhammad Ali was remembered at the 2016 ESPY Awards which took place Wednesday, July 13 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took the stage to deliver a speech about the late boxing legend, remembering him as "The Greatest."
The retired basketball player recounted the first time he met the Olympic medalist on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles where he was performing magic tricks for strangers walking by. "I think that encounter epitomized everything that made Ali, at that point in time, the most famous man in the world," he said.
Abdul-Jabbar continued, "His showmanship. His ubiquitousness. It just seemed like he was everywhere. And most of all, his magic. That ability to make the impossible seem real."
On how Ali handled fame, Abdul-Jabbar noted, "Some people revel in it. Some people aren't so comfortable with it. Muhammad Ali spoke fearlessly about injustice and he sacrificed tremendously for his principles."
"At this day in age, at this moment of history, that's what I hope everyone remembers. We're never going to see his likes again waking down the street. But I hope his death spurs his successors to remember what truly made him The Greatest."
Following the tribute to Ali, Chance the Rapper closed out the show with a musical performance of an original song penned for the segment as images and clips of Ali were shown on the screen. "Ain't nowhere greater/ Ain't nowhere brighter/ Ain't nowhere better/ Ain't no one prettier/ Ain't no one wiser/ Ain't no one better," he sang.
Also honored at the event were Kobe Bryant, Abby Wambach and Peyton Manning, who recently retired from their respective games. Justin Timberlake was on hand to deliver the speech, saying, "You know there's something different about them - Kobe. Peyton. Abby. 'Good' would have been a disappointment. Even 'great' would have underwhelmed. To truly live up to who they were supposed to be, they had to become legends."
Bryant said when receiving his Icon Award, "Thank you, it's amazing to be standing here alongside Abby and Peyton... We grew up in our sports together. We are up here cause of our dreams. We were never satisfied and will never be finished. Thank you for this honor but I am not done yet."
Abby was emotional during her speech, saying, "For me it was never about tryng to be the best player in the world. It was about working hard and embracing eery challenge." Manning, meanwhile, recalled how it all began for him.
"Sports are nothing without the fans. Being a fan is how I first came to love the NFL," he said. "Now that my time is up as a player, I'm looking forward to being a fan again and watching all of you in the audience tonight. Thank you very much. This is a tremendous honor."
The ESPYs also included a call to end gun violence. Zenobia Dobson, the mother to 15-year-old football player Zaevion who was killed while protecting three girls from bullets, took the stage to raise awareness of the issue.
"I'm here to fight back," she said, after she and her two other sons accepted an award on behalf of Zaevion. "We as a country need to take a stand against the effects of gun violence on families throughout America."
She added, "We need to rewrite laws to make it harder for the people to get guns. Some progress has been made, but just a few months ago when Tennessee, a law was passed to allow more people to carry guns on college campuses. What sense does that make? We need to go in the opposite direction. All the athletes in this room you have a lot of power. People look up to you. I know Zaevion did. I urge you to think tonight about why he died or what you can do tomorrow to prevent the next innocent young man or woman from being lost as well."
She ended the emotional speech with a message for her son, "Your act of bravery and boldness revealed to the world the real you. Fly high our Falcon 24."