By Scoop Malinowski
I recently picked up a book I had never heard of before. It’s called “Running With The Champ: My Forty-Year Friendship with Muhammad Ali” by Tim Shanahan.
Shanahan was a medical instruments salesman in Chicago and met Ali in 1975 after inviting Ali to participate in a charity program. Ali agreed and the two became good friends. Eventually their families became close friends too. Shanahan and Ali became so tight that Ali would even introduce him to friends as his “cousin.”
So try to imagine all the insider stories Shanahan shares about Ali in his book. Shanahan was there when Michael Jackson showed Ali his “moonwalk.” Shanahan was there when Ali played basketball – Ali’s only shot that he would try was his version of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook. And Shanahan was there when Bill Cosby and Ali had a bit of a verbal disagreement.
Many years ago, Ali, his wife Veronica and Shanahan went to see the now infamous entertainer Bill Cosby perform live at the Mill Run Playhouse in Niles, IL. After the show, “I went to his dressing room with Muhammad and Veronica and was introduced to him but he barely acknowledged me. He was talking with Muhammad and Veronica and suddenly said to them, ‘Why do you need people like him hanging around you? You don’t need hangers-on following you around everywhere you go.’
Veronica spoke up first and said, ‘Tim is not a hanger-on, he and his wife Helga are friends with Muhammad and I.”
Muhammad, usually so easy going, now looked annoyed. ‘I don’t need him with me,’ he said to Cosby, ‘I want him with me.’ Muhammad usually let people express all kinds of opinions around him without ever turning a conversation into a confrontation. This time he proceeded to tell Cosby that he didn’t like people telling him how to run his life or who to spend his time with. Cosby got the point. When Veronica changed the subject, the tense situation eventually became a little more relaxed – though Cosby never did introduce himself to me or say a single word to me directly.’
Winner by verbal TKO, and still…Muhammad Ali.
And this book by Shanahan about his dear friend for four decades, Muhammad Ali, is also a knockout.
Ali and Cosell oil painting by Scoop Malinowski