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LeBron James has decided to make a $2.5 million donation to help support an exhibit for Muhammad Ali called "Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change" at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The exhibit includes Ali's training robe and headgear and celebrates the late boxer's "community activism, resistance, politics, spirituality and culture."
"Muhammad Ali is such a cornerstone of me as an athlete because of what he represented not only in the ring as a champion but more outside the ring—what he stood for, what he spoke for, his demeanor," James said Thursday to USA TODAY Sports. "I think of him every day. Without his passion and goals and morals, I don’t know if I’d be sitting here today talking to you about it."
The museum, not surprisingly, had some nice things to say about LeBron. "His support will help us to continue the story of Muhammad Ali and will encourage athletes to realize how important athletics is in terms of social justice," said Lonnie Bunch, the museum's founding director.
Ali's widow, Lonnie Ali—who LeBron called after he had a chance to contribute to the exhibit—also praised James in a statement. "I am overwhelmed by the incredible generosity LeBron James has shown," she said. "This exhibit will enable children visiting the Smithsonian to learn more about Muhammad's work outside of the ring, particularly his humanitarian work and stance on social justice for all people...I know that if Muhammad was alive today he would be honored." Ali died of septic shock this past June at the age of 74.
James is not the first NBA star to make a seven-figure donation to the new Smithsonian museum, which opened in September. As previously reported, Magic Johnson ($1 million) and Michael Jordan ($5 million) also contributed large donations to the museum.