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Watching Rocky II with Muhammad Ali and more of the week's best sportswriting

Also, a tribute to the late Kimbo Slice and partying with Ronaldo in Bolivia at Copa America ’97.

Muhammad Ali (file pic).
Muhammad Ali (file pic).
Image: AP/Press Association Images

1. “There wasn’t nothing to do in the streets,” he told one writer, recalling his own stunted growing up. “The kids would throw rocks and stand under the streetlights all night, running in and out of the juke joints and smoking and slipping off drinking, nothing to do.”

Writing for The New Yorker, David Remnick looks at the outsized life of Muhammad Ali.

2. “I have been in this business more than 60 years and shared time with most of the great ones — Pele and Joe Louis, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle, with Joe Willie Namath and Vince Lombardi, and even Jim Thorpe in his declining years. But in all that time, I never knew an athlete who could stop a room, a building or even a city street dead in its tracks, the way Muhammad Ali could and did.”

Legendary sportswriter Jerry Izenberg recalls his long-time friendship with ‘The Greatest’.

3. “Right here in the middle of Muhammad Ali’s mansion, right here in the middle of the mahogany and the stained glass and the rare Turkish rug, there was this large insect buzzing near my ear. I gave it a slap and missed. Then it made a swipe at my other ear. I batted at the air but nothing seemed to be there, and Muhammad Ali was smiling to himself and studying the curve of his staircase.”

For the week that’s in it, a look back at when film critic Roger Ebert went to visit Muhammad Ali’s mansion and watched Rocky II with him.

4. “Resplendent in his rainbow jersey, the world champion autographs the backs of jerseys, the tops of helmets — even a top tube gets the treatment. He smiles for shared selfies, group selfies, and for a moment becomes the third stooge, as two boisterous gentlemen straddle his shoulders, unleashing their unbridled joyful banter.”

Maria Nasif meets cycling stars Peter and Katarina Sagan.

MMA--Kimbo Slice MMA star Kimbo Slice passed away during the week aged 42. Source: AP/Press Association Images

5. “The man arrived at just the right time, an underground character delivered through a disruptive media platform meant to broadcast from all the dark corners that never saw light. He was a block of muscle who said little but communicated with his presence a message easily understood.”

Mike Chiappetta of Bleacher Report on the life of MMA fighter Kimbo Slice, who died aged 42 during the week.

6. “The New York Times rushed to complete a report that took full measure of the man known as The Greatest. An all-encompassing, 4,000-word obituary by Robert Lipsyte, who had covered Ali since 1964, was the centerpiece of the package. A second story had been written years in advance by Dave Anderson, the longtime Sports of The Times columnist.”

Lew Serviss describes how The New York Times literally stopped the presses owing to the death of Muhammad Ali.

7. “History never remembers people for what they had, only what they gave. Nothing of any importance is worth keeping score, yet it all counts. Perhaps we owe the Louisville thief who stole a 12-year-old Cassius Clay’s bike a great debt for sending a scared young boy to the gym and putting him on the path to our consciousness, but it was Ali alone who earned a place in our hearts. We had Ali as a hero in the ring for 21 years of his adult life, and even after his passing it’s difficult to put into words just how great a gift this was.”

In a piece for The Classical, Brin-Jonathan Butler provides us with four memories of Muhammad Ali.

8. “If you think bringing Marshawn Lynch to the ground was a challenge, try getting on his calendar. The recently retired Seahawks running back (more on that later) agreed to talk during a tour of his hometown of Oakland—a serious achievement, given his arm’s-length relationship with the media—but then there was the matter of settling on a date. Since his exit announcement, slyly dropped during the Super Bowl, the five-time Pro Bowler has traveled to Haiti, Canada and Egypt, where he led a football camp, rode a camel and toured the Great Pyramid of Giza. A stealth visit to Flint, Mich.—he wanted to volunteer and lend solidarity to the citizenry—was postponed until later this summer; he appeared that week instead at a Clinton Global Initiative function in Oakland. When Lynch finally blocked out three free days, he warned that he would be spending one of those afternoons with his financial adviser. Then he would head to Seattle, where he would appear at a job fair as a favor to his friend, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz.”

Sports Illustrated’s ‘Big Interview’ with Marshawn Lynch is well worth a few minutes of your time.

Soccer - Copa America, Brazil v Peru in the Semi Final Ronaldo pictured during the 1997 Copa America. Source: EMPICS Sport

9. “1997 was a good time to be a young bloke looking to break into the big, bad world of football writing. Somehow I had lasted a year on the Sunday Telegraph sports desk. A week’s work experience, starting on the very day England lost on penalties to Germany at Euro ’96, turned into another week and so on. I did not know shorthand, had no journalistic training, and was completely winging it. I ended up staying for five years.”

Jack Carroll recalls partying with Ronaldo in Bolivia at Copa America ’97 for The Set Pieces.

10. “In 2009 a group of young Icelandic football coaches travelled to England to study for their Uefa coaching licences. The trip involved a stop at Reading, where the Icelanders were excited to see at first hand the progress of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland’s own 18‑year‑old creative midfield jewel.”

The Guardian’s Barney Ronay tells the inside story of Iceland’s remarkable rise.

11. “The trouble actually began 24 hours before that. Simmons — part rabble-rouser, part bro whisperer to legions of fans and nearly 5 million Twitter followers who first met him as The Sports Guy — had appeared on Dan Patrick’s syndicated radio show, where he was asked about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. The subject was radioactive, and Simmons knew it. Just eight months earlier, ESPN had suspended him for three weeks after he blasted Goodell for his mishandling of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal. Now, Goodell was threatening to sideline Tom Brady, of Simmons’ beloved New England Patriots, for allegedly conspiring to use underinflated footballs during a playoff game. It would have been out of character for Simmons to hold his tongue, and, to the horror of his longtime network home (which pays nearly $2 billion annually for Monday Night Football), he didn’t disappoint. In another impassioned diatribe, he accused Goodell of, among other things, lacking “testicular fortitude.”

Lacey Rose of the Hollywood Reporter recounts Bill Simmons’ ESPN exit and upcoming HBO show.

12. “Did you see that?” barks Lee Chapman as he jogs away from a thumping Leicester nightclub, blue football socks riding down his shins. “Some bloke just pinned me against a wall and said ‘fuck you!’. He said ‘fuck you for being a stalker!’ Can you believe that?”

Shortlist went on a night out in Leicester with ‘that’ Jamie Vardy lookalike and everything went wrong.

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