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Muhammad Ali's wife congratulated the three sports icons on winning the award, which celebrates the achievements of athletes who have used their platforms to inspire social change.

Rachaell Davis
Nov, 30, 2016

The Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award honors athletes for their noteworthy achievements in sports and activism and this year's recipients are the cream of the crop.

Established in 2008, this year's award is celebrating NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell, as well as NFL great Jim Brown. Each of the men are ecstatic about being selected and have been proud to use their platforms as professional athletes to inspire social change.

"Muhammad Ali was both a friend and a personal inspiration to me as an athlete and as an activist," Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement. "To receive an award in his name is especially moving because it means I am honoring his legacy as a man who defied conventions and courageously risked life and career to making America a land of freedom, equal opportunity and social justice."

Hall of Famer Jim Brown hopes the honor will inspire others to follow in his footsteps. 
“I am deeply touched to be honored for a lifetime spent working to establish common ground and mutual respect for all perspectives and backgrounds," Brown said. "I hope that this tribute serves as a symbol of inspiration for all Americans to be champions of social justice. This is a proud moment for me, and I am thrilled to be recognized alongside two other transformative athletes with whom I share a long history of activism and friendship, and for whom I have great respect."

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Like his other fellow extraordinary sports icons, Russell is proud to be recognized for his contribution to the fight against injustice and the pursuit of positive change on a global scale.

"To be a true influence of positive change in the world often means that you have to stand up against injustice and fight through adversity," Russell said. "I am honored to be recognized alongside some of the great cultural icons of our time who have used their platforms to fight for civil rights and social justice, regardless of the risk, including my good friend Muhammad Ali to whom the award is dedicated. Our work has just begun.”

To hear more about this year's honorees, including the special congratulatory they received from Muhammad Ali's wife, visit the Sports Illustrated website here