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LeBron James to give $2.5 million to the Muhammad Ali exhibit at Smithsonian

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Posted at 6:37 AM, Nov 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-17 08:51:48-05

Cleveland Cavaliers player Lebron James to donate $2.5 million to the Muhammad Ali exhibit at the Smithsonian. 

The donation will help support the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and its exhibit titled “Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change," according to a museum news release.  

Ali's exhibit has been on display since the NMAAHC opened in September, and it tells the story about how the boxing icon contributed to the sports world —— "his commitment to challenging racial barriers helped lay the groundwork for the successful careers of so many African Americans in athletics and beyond," the news release said. 

The NBA All-Star, his charitable organization, and James' business partner Maverick Carter will also be part of the $2.5 million contribution to the Ali exhibit.

“Every professional athlete, regardless of race and gender, owes a huge debt of gratitude to Muhammad Ali,” James said. “His legacy deserves to be studied and revered by every generation. I am honored to partner with the Smithsonian to celebrate one of the most influential figures in our nation’s history who, along with Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens, used the power of sports to advance our civil rights.” 

At the time of Ali's death in June, James said: “We knew how great of a boxer he was, but I think that was only 20 percent of what made him as great as he was. [He] basically had to give up a belt and [relinquish] everything that he had done because of what he believed in and ended up in jail because of his beliefs. It’s a guy who stood up for so many different things throughout the times where it was so difficult for African-Americans to even walk in the streets."

The exhibit of Ali includes collection highlights such as the heavyweight champion’s headgear and training robe. The exhibit allows visitors to look at Ali not only for his athletic achievement but also for his achievements in community activism, resistance, politics, spirituality and culture.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Ali offered unwavering critiques of racism, heightened the profile of the Nation of Islam and raised awareness of the Vietnam War. After his boxing career, Ali continued to work globally as a force for change as a social activist, cultural critic and humanitarian.

Ali, who battled Parkinson's disease for decades, passed away in June at the age of 74 after being hospitalized in Arizona. His life was remembered during a televised funeral. 

“I am overwhelmed by the incredible generosity LeBron James has shown to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and to Muhammad’s legacy,” said Lonnie Ali, Ali’s widow. “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. Thank you to LeBron James and the Smithsonian for making this possible. I know that if Muhammad was alive today he would be honored.”