- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
“His showmanship, his ubiquitousness … it just feels like he was everywhere,” said the former basketball star of his old friend, The Greatest. “And most of all, his magic.”
Abdul-Jabbar continued: “That ability to make the impossible seem real.”
Saying how everyone handles fame in their own way, he added, “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.
“In this day and age, at this moment of history, that’s what I hope everyone remembers about Muhammad Ali. 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.”
The tribute fit with the night’s theme of speaking out against injustice and calling for an end to violence.
The NBA’s Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James opened the show with a Black Lives Matter-themed call to action, and Zenobia Dobson, the mother of a 15-year-old boy who was killed by gunfire while saving three girls, made a powerful plea to end gun violence.
After his speech, Abdul-Jabbar then introduced Chance the Rapper, who closed out the annual awards show with a musical tribute.
The Chicago rapper honored Ali with a piano-driven ballad, an original song penned for the moment as images and clips of the celebrated sports figure displayed behind him.
“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. “I was a rock ‘n’ roller back in my day, but now I’m just a rock.”
The boxing legend died last month at age 74 following a 32-year fight with Parkinson’s disease.
Watch the performance by Chance the Rapper below.
The 2016 ESPYs aired live Wednesday on ABC from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. See all of the winners here.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day