Muhammad Ali, who died Friday, inspired millions of words during his long career. (Some of the best were from Ali himself.) But to get a sense of the man in full, take a look at David Remnick’s 1998 piece for The New Yorker, “American Hunger.” That same year, Remnick published “King of the World,” perhaps the best Ali biography.
Remnick characterizes Ali as a man always studying, always looking for an edge, taking from everyone and distilling it down to himself. “Who made me is me,” Ali says.
But he had an eye on the future, even in 1998.
Here’s the author:
As we watched and spoke, Ali was taken with the subject of himself, but sometimes his heavy lids would blink a few times and then stay shut and he would sleep, mid-conversation, for five minutes or so. He used to do that occasionally when he was young. Now he did it a lot more often. Sometimes the present world, the life going on all around—the awards dinners, the standing ovations, the visits to the King of Morocco or to the aldermen of Chicago—sometimes it just bored him. He thought about death all the time now, he said. “Do good deeds. Visit hospitals. Judgment Day coming. Wake up and it’s Judgment Day.” As a devout Muslim, Ali prayed five times a day, always with death in mind. “Thinking about after. Thinking about Paradise.”
Ali is there now. His legacy lives on.