Ali. The Greatest. There is an entire body of sports writing devoted to him. For more than a generation it's as if every writer worth his or her salt had to tackle him at one point.
In this space we'll document some noteworthy Ali pieces—and reprint more than a few, too.
First up, here's Cal Fussman's 2003 Esquire story, "Ali Now":
MUHAMMAD ALI came through the double doors into the living room of his hotel suite on slow, tender steps. I held out my hand. He opened his arms. Ali lowered himself into a wide, soft chair, and I sat on an adjacent sofa. "I've come," I said, "to ask about the wisdom you've taken from all you've been through." Ali seemed preoccupied with his right hand, which was trembling over his right thigh, and he did not speak. "George Foreman told me that you were the most important man in the world. When I asked him why, he said that when you walked into a room, it didn't matter who was there—presidents, prime ministers, CEOs, movie stars—everybody turned toward you. The most famous person in that room was wondering, Should I go to meet him? Or stay here? He said you were the most important man in the world because you made everybody else's heart beat faster."
The shaking in Ali's right hand seemed to creep above his elbow. Both of his arms were quivering now, and his breaths were short and quick.
I leaned in awkwardly, not knowing quite what to do. Half a minute passed in silence. I wondered if I should call for his wife.
Ali stooped over, and now his whole body was trembling and his breaths were almost gasps.
"Champ! You okay? You okay?"
Ali's head lifted and slowly turned to me with the smile of an eight-year-old.
"Scared ya, huh?" he said.
[Photo Via: Magnificent Ruin]