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On the red carpet at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, where the awards celebrated the coolest athletes, entertainers and heroes from the past year, stars shared their memories and reaction over Ali’s death.
The evening’s presenter, Rob Riggle, discussed why Ali’s presence in and out the ring impacted people not just on a national level, but on a global scale.
“I feel like everybody in the world right now,” he said. “I was very sad. He was iconic. What he did inside the ring was legendary, [but] what he did outside the ring, in my opinion, was equal if not better.”
Riggle added: “He was such a leader, an inspiration, a man of integrity as far as standing his ground. The decisions he made, he always stood behind them. I wish I can be as comfortable in my skin as he was in his. I’m grateful that he was around as long as he was.”
“Our New Girlfriend” honoree, supermodel Gigi Hadid, recognized Ali during her acceptance speech.
“I didn’t get to post anything yet, so I just wanted to say, Muhammad Ali has touched me so much in my life,” she said. “I’m so grateful to have met him, so I just wanted to openly say, ‘Rest in peace, Muhammad. You’re the champ.'”
Later in the night, John Legend paid tribute to the legendary boxer. Before performing “The Greatest Love of All” with Andra Day, the singer gave a touching speech to the audience.
“Tonight as we celebrate so many greats, we must acknowledge the loss of the man known all around the world as ‘The Greatest,’ Muhammad Ali,” he said. “The Champ was the towering figure of our times, in the boxing ring and beyond. He was a freedom fighter who used his fists and his wits, his force and his faith to make our world a better and more just place. As a fighter and a man, Ali had it all. As he himself would put it, he could ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’ He was the toughest, the funniest and the prettiest, too. But beyond his amazing grace and beauty, ‘The Champ’ was also the bravest, both in how he chose to fight and in how he chose peace.”
Legend continued: “And that was true right until the end as ‘The Champ’ bravely fought on in the final battle of his life. This anthem has gone on to become a modern standard, and tonight I am honored to sing it with the extraordinary Andra Day in honor of this giant who forever set the standard for what it means to be a true hero. Thank you, Muhammad Ali, for showing us all the greatest love of all.”
Also during the night, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were honored as “Guys of the Decade,” while Julia Roberts was “Woman of the Decade.”
Other notable guests in attendance included Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick, Bryan Callen, Chrissy Teigen, Christian Slater, Dermot Mulroney, James Franco, Joe Pesci, Kendrick Lamar, Kiefer Sutherland, Kobe Bryant, Norman Reedus, Olivia Munn, Robert De Niro, RZA, Sarah Hyland, Terry Crews, Von Miller and Zac Efron.
The “Rat Pack” Vegas-themed show included tigers, show girls and a live band accompanied by singer Robin Thicke.
The show is set to air Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Spike.
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