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Si 60 Q&a: Gary Smith On Muhammad Ali,...

Glax0r's Photo Glax0r 21 Oct 2014

SI 60 Q&A: Gary Smith on Muhammad Ali, his entourage and memories of the Greatest

by Ted Keith

Without question, the most captivating athlete during Sports Illustrated’s first few decades was Muhammad Ali. He was on the magazine’s cover 28 times from 1963, the year before he beat Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion for the first time, to 1980, when he lost to Larry Holmes in his quest to win the title for the fourth time. He last fought in 1981, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in ’84 and by ‘88, Ali, though still a legend, had been surpassed in the public’s sporting consciousness -- he hadn't been on the cover of SI since losing the Holmes fight.
If even the great Ali had faded from view, then it was as if the members of his inner circle, who spent decades basking in his reflected glow, had never existed at all. So SI senior writer Gary Smith set out to discover what happened to them. The result was “Ali And His Entourage,” which ran as the cover of the April 25, 1988 issue. At over 11,000 words it was one of the longest pieces SI has ever run, but it was then and remains now one of the best. I spoke to Smith about the story, the characters, and his memories of the man who briefly made them famous.

SI: Why did you want to do this story?
SMITH: I had just done a story about [Ali’s longtime trainer] Angelo Dundee and in the interviewing for that it just occurred to me that doing a piece on each of the other people in the entourage who had built their lives around that and what had become of their lives after this rocket ride would be an interesting endeavor....

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON CNN SI AT: http://www.si.com/bo...d-ali-entourage