*It’s difficult to watch our heroes pass away. Whether we knew them personally, or got an opportunity to meet them at all, they made an unforgettable impression on us. They encouraged, inspired us, and profoundly impacted our lives. All this contributes to the sincerest pain of watching theirs end.
One of my heroes was late ESPN analyst Stuart Scott. I got to share a few conversations with him, both on and off the record. It was awesome learning we had things in common; we both enjoyed hip-hop music, wearing nice ties, and were longtime, childhood fans of hall of fame professional wrestler Ric Flair.
It felt surreal each time Scott and I spoke. During one of those times I confessed my admiration for him, telling Scott I’d been watching him on television since I was a teen. His response? “Why are you calling me an old man?” We both laughed out loud.
Once settled down I asked about the persons he admired most. “At the top of the list, Muhammad Ali,” he said.
Scott told me he’d encountered Ali in person 4 or 5 times. He was never composed.
“Every time I’m just noodle-legged,” he said. “I’m goo. This comes from my childhood.”
READ RELATED STORY: POTUS & FLOTUS Speak on Death of Muhammad Ali (Official Statement)
READ RELATED STORY: Stuart Scott’s Daughters Release Tribute Video A Year After His Death [WATCH]
An entertaining 3-time heavyweight boxing champion, globally beloved Olympic gold medalist, civil rights activist, and humanitarian, Ali was indeed a polarizing individual. I imagine he left countless persons feeling star stuck.
Scott proceeded to tell me a story about one of those 4 or 5 noodle-legged moments.
“When my oldest daughter was 1 ½ years old I took her to New York. Ali was doing a meet-and-greet there,” Scott recalled.
“I saw Howard Bingham, Ali’s personal photographer,” Scott said. “He knew who I was. He said, come on up here. I took my daughter and I put her in Muhammad’s hands, and stood back and squeezed about 15 seconds of video of Muhammad Ali holding my daughter.
“I remember thinking,” continued Scott, “‘I can die Lord; you can take me’ because Muhammad Ali was a hero when I was a child.”
Sadly, Stuart Scott wrestled a lengthy bout with cancer that began in 2007. The Lord obliged him January 4, 2015.
Ali succumbed to septic shock on June 3, 2016 after being hospitalized the day before with respiratory illness. Both losses contributed to the sincerest pain of many who admired them, myself included. As difficult as it was to learn they passed, neither Scott nor Ali topped my list. My grandfather did.
A proud survivor of Pearl Harbor and an activist himself, my grandfather introduced me to Muhammed Ali through VHS recordings of his best fights. When he wasn’t sharing vivid recollections of World War II, we watched classic boxing.
My grandfather died of cancer also a few years ago. And for the record, Ali topped his list, too.
I imagine he and Scott were both “goo” when The Champ showed up in heaven.
Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion”, Mr. Joe Walker has been a biographer, entertainment journalist, and columnist for 18 years; his acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online for numerous publications including SoulTrain.com, Kalamazoo Gazette, WrestlingInc.com and Notion Magazine. Walker’s currently writing for EURweb, Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com, RealMenReport.com, and Hood Illustrated Magazine. Like him on Facebook, follow on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit his official blog.