Michael Jordan the activist would have been handy: Leonard Thomas
The whole world is reminded of boxer Muhammad Ali's stature, after the basketball icon explains why he did not speak out more
The importance of that meeting almost 53 years ago in an office in Cleveland cannot be overstated, even though there are conflicting versions of why it took place.
Some said the group of prominent black Americans had gathered to try and persuade Muhammad Ali to put on some boxing cameos for the United States Army for his draft-dodging charges to be dropped.
Other sources claimed that the group - it included a trio of athletes who would go on to be among some of the most celebrated in sport - had come out to show their solidarity with Ali over his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War.
Whatever the intention, they met for hours behind closed doors and then faced the world's media, memorably surrounding the heavyweight boxing champion as if in a protective phalanx, offering their unequivocal support for his stance.
I wonder if Bill Russell, Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr before he converted to Islam), would have been disappointed with Michael Jordan's explanation for his infamous "Republicans buy sneakers, too" comment and general political stance in the latest episode of ESPN's hit documentary series, The Last Dance.
Jordan did add more shine to the edifice of Ali as the Greatest of All Time, as if it is needed, when he commended the Louisville Lip for being an activist athlete.
Perhaps former US President Barack Obama's response in the episode offers the view held by many, that Jordan could also have used his considerable influence to be a loud voice fighting for justice and become a force for change, like Ali.
While being all-conquering at what he did best, like Ali.
Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time and still one of the most revered and recognised icons in the world, describes himself in the documentary as an athlete solely focused on being the best, not an activist who would publicly call out a racist Republican who was running for a Senate seat in 1990.
Even if mum asked.
But Jordan's joke that "Republicans buy sneakers, too" made headlines back then and mattered to a young Obama, who was at the time about to embark on a career in civil rights law and who remembers being disappointed by what the Chicago Bulls star said.
There was a time when everyone wanted to play football like Pele.
There was a time when everyone wanted to punch and dance like Ali.
There was a time when everyone wanted to play basketball like Mike.
All reached the mountain top in their respective fields, but only the pugilist continues to be the great inspiration for every subsequent generation, especially when it comes to fighting for a just cause.
There are those who will argue that an athlete should stay in his lane and focus on realising his talent but, even as he enthralled the world and won in the ring during the greatest period in heavyweight boxing, Ali defied such parameters and pulled off so much more.
Jordan inspired as well.
He was even suave on court, oozing style with his tongue hanging out as he shredded defences on his way to the basket. He was terrifying on defence.
He scored a torrent season in season out, he scored a torrent with a high fever when it mattered, he just seemed to be able to conjure up a basket when it mattered most.
His work ethic and drive to win became the stuff of legend, he made Oprah swoon as he captivated a worldwide audience with his extraordinary basketball gifts.
Ali was blessed with superman gifts as well, lithe, lightning quick, armed with dancing feet and a magnetic appeal. They say he made the earth shake whether he went to Miami, New York, Kinshasa, London, Manila, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, as he became the most famous and popular person in the world.
And he could also inspire a nervous young man or woman and make him or her less afraid to fight for what is right.
Ask LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe.
Ask basketball legends Russell and Kareem.
They watched Ali, they stood by him, they fed off him and, forever fuelled by his example, they continue to advocate for social justice.
Ask Obama, who said Ali helped inspire a young mixed kid with a funny name to have the audacity to believe he could be anything, even President of the United States.
Man, Jordan could fly on court, but he couldn't do that.