Laila Ali Pays Emotional Tribute to Father Muhammad Ali at BET Awards
By Meredith B. Kile
Laila Ali took the stage at the 2016 BET Awards on Sunday night to pay tribute to her father, the late Muhammad Ali, who died earlier this month after a decades-long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
“My father, Muhammad Ali, lived his life with conviction and purpose,” Laila told the crowd, who tributed her father with a standing ovation. “He is known the world over as the greatest athlete of all time, a man who fearlessly faced opposition both in and out of the ring. But to me and my eight sisters and brothers, he was just ‘Dad.’”
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“My father always said, ‘The man who views the world at 50 the same way that he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life,’” recounted Laila, who grew emotional describing her father as a “loving, gentle, and principled man.”
“As my dad grew older, he evolved in his mind, his heart, and his spirit, but one thing that never changed was his love and gratitude for all people,” she added. “These past few weeks, my father’s generosity and love has been matched by a worldwide outpouring of love and reverence for him and our entire family.”
Laila concluded her speech by thanking fans for the “love, kindness and appreciation” that’s been shown in the weeks since her father’s death.
“My father once said, ‘If people loved each other as much as they love me, it would be a better world,’” she remembered. “If he was here today, he would ask you to pray, not just for our family, but for all of mankind.”
Laila spoke to ET ahead of her father’s funeral on June 10, where she opened up about the sports legend’s relationship with Smith, who served as a pallbearer during the ceremony.
"My father had a big impact on his life," she said. "He did a tremendous job playing that role, and he will forever be associated with my father, because as an actor, that's kind of a spiritual thing, playing Muhammad Ali -- and being able to do it so well.”