These are the words that describe “The Greatest”, fitting because he certainly was more than an athlete. All three of these traits were brought to life in celebration of the launch of HBO’s What’s My Name documentary. The HBO Muhammad Ali Pop Up experience, which was open to the public the weekend of May 11th and 12th, featured interactive exhibits, that were more like showcases for who Ali was throughout his life.
As you entered the event the ceiling was lined with boxing gloves leading you to a full sized boxing ring, which doubled as a prime photo spot and later in the evening, a dance floor. Also, transporting you back in time, was an old school locker with posters and photos from some of Ali’s most memorable fights.
If you know anything about Ali, you know that his political, social, and religious beliefs led him to speak out against racial discrimination and the Vietnam war, ultimately refusing fight in the war. This led to his arrest, being stripped of his titles, and being denied boxing licenses in the prime fighting years. Representing this were microphones set up for a media interview playing Ali’s quotes surrounded by quotes lining the wall still seem relevant today ( I am a Man, Bring our GI’s home, Hell No We Won’t Go).
What are the signs of a great orator? Great one-liners that live on forever, the ability to have listeners hang on every word, and of course confidence. Ali checked off all three boxes and had the gift to draw you in and keep you entertained. The display for this was an impressive collection of old television sets with vintage video of Ali giving speeches and interviews that was extremely powerful.