LeBron James says he wouldn’t be where he is today without Muhammad Ali

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OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 02: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on before taking on the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

OAKLAND, California– Greatest of All Time. That is how so many people are remembering Muhammad Ali the day after his death.

That includes Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James. The star athlete answered questions about the boxing legend at Oracle Arena in Oakland ahead of Sunday’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

James said he wouldn’t be where he is today without Ali.

368965 03: Former three time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali poses for a photograph while visiting Ciudad Juarez May 7, 2000 in Mexico. His visit was to bring attention to missionary work and food distribution through an organization called Global Village Market. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

368965 03: Former three time heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali poses for a photograph while visiting Ciudad Juarez May 7, 2000 in Mexico. His visit was to bring attention to missionary work and food distribution through an organization called Global Village Market. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)

“For an athlete like myself today, without Muhammad Ali, I wouldn’t be sitting up here talking in front of you guys. I wouldn’t be able to walk in restaurants; I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere where blacks weren’t allowed back in those days.”

He said everyone knew how great of a boxer Ali was, but that was “only 20 percent of what made him as great as he was.”

“I only knew as a kid what he did inside the ring. As I got older and I started to be more knowledgeable about sports in general and about the guys who paved the way for guys like myself, I understood that he is the greatest of all time and he was the greatest of all time because of what he did outside of the ring.”  James said Ali was a man who stood up for so many different things in times where it was so difficult for African Americans to even walk in the streets.

James said Ali, who he had the opportunity to meet a few times, was the first icon. “When an icon like Muhammad Ali passes away, it’s very emotional; it’s also gratifying to know that one man would sacrifice so much in his individual life  knowing that it would better the next generation of men and women after him.”

Muhammad Ali passed away last night after being hospitalized earlier in the week. His funeral is scheduled for Friday in Louisville, Kentucky.

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