As Muhammad Ali Was Laid To Rest, Billy Crystal Brought Applause And Tears To The Crowd

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Ali … taught us that life is best when you build bridges between people, not walls.

The Greatest was gently eased into his final resting place this week. As part of the ceremony, Billy Crystal, known as Ali’s “Little Brother,” offered some beautiful, moving, and reverent private moments to the audience in Louisville.

At the ceremony, attended by tens of thousands of people, Crystal was asked to speak about the 42 years he spent knowing Ali.

What many don’t know is that Billy Crystal’s entire career got its start when he was asked to imitate Ali and Cosell at a 1974 dinner honoring Ali, just after he defeated George Foreman and regained the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. Nobody had imitated Ali yet, and Crystal had it nailed — and this was his first time on television.

Just before he went on, when asked to describe who he was to Ali, Crystal replied flippantly, “Just say I’m one of his closest and dearest friends” even though they’d never met.

What followed from there was a 42-year friendship built on love, respect, and laughs, as Crystal recalled poignantly.

The piece that he refers to near the end, “15 Rounds,” lives here.


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