LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Journalist, sportscaster and former Today co-host Bryant Gumbel was one of the eulogists for Muhammad Ali’s memorial service at the KFC Yum! Center.
Ali appeared on the Today show with Gumbel, and the two were personal friends. He said he will never forget what Ali freed within him.
“Some of us like him took pride in being black, bold and brash, and because we were so unapologetic we were in the eyes of many way too uppity, we were way too arrogant. Yet, we reveled in being like him,” Gumbel said. “By stretching society’s boundaries as he did, he gave us levels of strength and courage we didn’t even know we had.”
Gumbel recalled a conversation that he and Ali’s wife Lonnie had when The Champ first went into the hospital. Lonnie told Gumbel that the world still needed Muhammad Ali.
“The world needs a champion who always worked to bridge the economic and social divides that threatened a nation that he dearly loved,” Gumbel said.
“This time our beloved champion is down, and for once he’ll not get up,” Gumbel said.
Gumbel concluded with a personal story about Ali. He recalled the first time he shook The Champ’s had at just 17.