Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki talked about the recent deaths of boxing legend Muhammad Ali and former Mavs teammate Sean Rooks on Thursday during the training camp portion of his Heroes Celebrity Baseball Weekend.
"He was a pioneer, he was inspirational,’’ Nowitzki said of Ali. "He was controversial at times, but always stood up for what he believed in, and from that standpoint, (he was) an absolute role model and he meant so much.’’
Arguably the greatest sports figure of all time, Ali died last Friday at the age of 74. The three-time heavyweight boxing champion was also a humanitarian who touched the lives of millions of people across the world.
"I think he was almost as big in his sport as he was outside his sport, just for what he stood for and his beliefs,’’ Nowitzki said. "It’s been a sad year.
"A lot of famous people and great people have passed away and left this world way too soon. So it’s been very sad.’’
Nowitzki also discussed the death of Rooks, who was one of his teammates during the 1999-’00 season. Rooks died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack at the age of 46.
"That hit me a little bit, obviously,’’ Nowitzki said. "I just saw him a few months ago.
"I always talked to him.’’
Nowitzki remembers Rooks as a kind-hearted man who always had pleasant things to say about others.
"He’s a nice, nice man,’’ Nowitzki said. "Always had a great attitude, a great smile on his face every time you saw him.
"Sean was always a guy that came in and worked hard and was great in the community for us, and he was a great man. It’s just sad, it’s just very unfortunate.’’
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