There is little doubt as to whether or not Muhammad Ali was “the greatest,” and one of the biggest sporting icons of our time. Therefore, it really should be a shock that just like they did following the death of Prince, many major networks are taking note of his death this weekend and planning much of their nightly programming around it.
For ABC, they are moving away from their previous plan of a “20/20” special to instead air “Muhammad Ali: The Greatest of All Time,” which will try to measure the boxer’s legacy and feature quick pieces and reactions all over the world to his death. Many are still coming in, and this death is one that may not really be measured in the days that follow. Instead, it could take years to see the full extent of his impact across the entire sport of boxing, and really sports in general and the way it is covered by media. No one knew how to make a soundbite or create attention all around a fight quite like Ali could.
Also on primetime tonight, CBS is planning “Muhammad Ali: Remembering a Legend,” a special edition of “48 Hours” that will likely have a similar effect. Last-minute programming is something that these networks tend to prepare themselves for to the best of their ability, and we would not be particularly surprised if there are more announced prior to primetime in several hours.
For now, let us hope that these specials and many others do the best job possible at giving fans of Ali full perspective on his life and his legacy, and not just a few isolated moments that defined his career in terms of headlines. He was so much more than that.
While there are millions of tributes out there to Ali already, let’s send our best to his family, and all who loved him during this incredibly difficult time.