By Tim Nash
Mia Hamm has a bunch of pictures, a collection fitting someone who has been to countless foreign countries, met presidents, world leaders, famous athletes, celebrities. Even a simple photo of the Mia Ham building on the Nike campus would qualify as a keepsake, don’t you think?
Choosing her favorite photo must be impossible. But one in particular was on her mind this weekend. It’s because Muhammad Ali died on June 3 at the age of 74. Yes, Ali was one of those famous people that Mia met.
On the surface, the two seem to share a couple things in common. One is the 1996 Olympics – in which Mia was a Gold medalist and Ali appeared above Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium to light the torch. The other is the fact they both belong to the one-name-is-enough club with other single-moniker sports stars like Pele, Kobe, Gretzky and Messi.
But Ali and Mia were both founding members of Athletes for Hope, along with Alonzo Mourning, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jeff Gordon, Warrick Dunn and Andre Agassi, all athletes with a charitable heart and a track record to match. The mission of Athletes for Hope is to “educate, encourage and assist charitable athletes in their efforts to contribute to community and charitable causes, to increase public awareness of those efforts, and to inspire others to do the same.”
The photo, the one on Mia mind, was taken four years ago. “The Champ gave me one of my greatest memories,” she Mia.
“You know, sometimes, you get caught up with life and everything you are doing and you forget how important it is to just take time for someone, whether it’s signing an autograph, taking a picture or giving a high-five. He helped me realize that again. He took a picture with my six-week-old son, and that was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
“With Athletes for Hope, which is a tremendous organization not just for sports but for humanity, we were celebrating his 70th birthday,” Mia explained. “We were sitting at the table with him and his wife. His wife asked is there anything they could do, and I said I would love for the Champ to take a photo with my son. As soon as we put Garrett in his arms, the outside world disappeared. There was this gentleness in his eyes and on his face … it’s just unbelievable.
“He didn’t have to do that, and he did,” added Mia. “It taught me a huge lesson about time and how valuable it is and how it can make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes you need something like that to shake you up, to make you think, ‘Hey listen, when someone comes up and wants to take a photo, take the time to do it.’ That lesson was for me because sometimes my kids are driving me crazy, I’m running here and there, gotta do this and that. But that little thing might mean everything to someone.”
Tim Nash is a freelance writer and author of the new book, “It’s Not the Glory, the Remarkable First Thirty Years of U.S. Women’s Soccer.” To order a copy, click here