LeBron and fellow players praise Ali for his huge influence

Sat Jun 4, 2016 9:22pm EDT
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(Reuters) - The death of boxing great Muhammad Ali was a huge talking point on Saturday for players competing in the NBA Finals, and prompted the Golden State Warriors to begin their morning practice with an Ali tribute song.

"We started our practice with the old song from the 70s, 'Catch Me If You Can'," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, referring to the hit single 'Black Superman' which was released by British singer Johnny Wakelin and the Kinshasa Band in 1975.

Ali, who died on Friday aged 74, reportedly did not like the song, but it nonetheless became a number one hit in Australia while also charting high in Britain, the United States and elsewhere.

On a day when Cleveland Cavaliers star forward LeBron James and his team coach Tyronn Lue also spoke eloquently about Ali, Kerr joined in with the heart-felt tributes.

"(Ali was) probably the most influential athlete in the history of our country, so as a team, as an organization, we're thinking about him," Kerr told reporters on the eve of Game Two of the best-of-seven NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Golden State won the first game on Thursday.

"I met him once in Phoenix at a Suns game very briefly. It was a thrill. He was one of the few people on earth who had that presence where you just got nervous just being in his presence, being there in the same room. It was quite an experience."

Kerr's counterpart Lue also paid tribute to the late boxer, as did James.

"That was the first guy I idolized," Lue said of Ali.   Continued...

June 2, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) controls the ball against Golden State Warriors  Stephen Curry (30) and forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half in game one of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports