It’s a heartbreaking day for the world of sports.
And for the world in general.
Any debate about the greatest player in NFL history is incomplete if Jim Brown’s name isn’t included. Brown, whose name is still synonymous with greatness at the running back position more than 50 years after his final NFL game, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles, his wife told the Associated Press. He was 87.
Brown was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, after playing for the team from 1957 to 1965. Paying tribute to the iconic star, the Cleveland Browns said in a statement: ‘Legend. Leader. Activist. Visionary. ‘It’s impossible to describe the profound love and gratitude we feel for having the opportunity to be a small piece of Jim’s incredible life and legacy.
“We mourn his passing, but celebrate the indelible light he brought to the world. Our hearts are with Jim’s family, loved ones, and all those he impacted along the way.’ The star was chosen the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1965 and shattered the league’s record books during his short career.
His resume speaks for itself on the field.
Brown, who led the Browns to the NFL championship in 1964, was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, Brown retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher (12,312 yards) after earning eight unanimous first-team all-pro selections and nine Pro Bowl honors during nine NFL seasons.
A four-time NFL MVP and eight-time rushing champ, he averaged 104.3 rushing yards per game – and never missed a game.
He was an extraordinary all-around athlete who was a high school star in football, basketball, baseball, track and lacrosse. At Syracuse he played football, basketball, track and lacrosse — and some observers of his college athletic prowess said he was even better at lacrosse than he was at football.
But Brown was more than a football player. He was a civil rights activist, putting together the famous “Ali Summit” of 1967 that included Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell. The New York Times said, “the moment itself would be remembered as the first – and last – time that so many African-American athletes at that level came together to support a controversial cause.”
In a statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called Brown a “gifted athlete” who “became a forerunner and role model for athletes being involved in social initiatives outsider their sports.”