To his 18 major titles, 73 PGA Tour wins and Congressional Gold Medal, Jack William Nicklaus can now tack on one more honor: the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which the magazine bestows upon sports figures who embody the ideals of sportsmanship, leadership and philanthropy.
Nicklaus, 75, joins Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver (2008) and NBA legend and philanthropist Earvin Magic Johnson (2014) as the only three honorees of the Ali Legacy Award, which earlier this year was renamed for the legendary boxer during a ceremony at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky.
“Jack’s passion for excellence on the golf course is only surpassed by his love and passion for children and their well being,” said Ali, 73. “For decades, he has used his celebrity to bring awareness and support for children’s health. I can not think of a more deserving person for this special inaugural award than the Golden Bear himself.”
Nicklaus will receive the award during SI’s annual Sportsman of the Year celebration on Dec. 15, in New York City.
“There are very few in the sporting world who are more synonymous with the word ‘legacy’ than Muhammad Ali, so to have his name attached to the prestigious Legacy Award is so fitting,” Nicklaus said. “This is a marvelous way to honor his contributions past and present, and to ensure that generations going forward will have the opportunity to learn, respect and admire all Muhammad Ali has done for the sporting world.”
Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of Nicklaus’s 18th and final major victory, the 1986 Masters. That unforgettable week in some ways marked the end of his playing career as he began to transition into his second act.
After winning more than 100 times worldwide, Nicklaus turned his attention to course design and philanthropy. He and wife Barbara created the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, which provides pediatric services nationwide. They threw their support behind a number of other pediatric care organizations, including Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. As co-chairman of the Nicklaus Companies, which produces everything from wine to ice cream, Nicklaus directs the profits back into those charities.
“Jack is the ultimate ambassador for golf and the sporting world,” said Sports Illustrated Group Editor Paul Fichtenbaum. “From his play, which set the standard in golf for decades and is still held up as the benchmark today, to his successful business pursuits and tireless efforts to support a range of charitable causes, Jack is one of a kind.”
Nicklaus has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated 22 times, more than any other golfer, and was named the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year in 1978. He later was selected as SI’s Male Athlete of the 20th Century.
He is a five-time winner of the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award and has won recognition and praise for his dedication to excellence and his stewardship of the game. He has designed close to 300 courses worldwide, and took a leadership role in restoring golf to the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
Nicklaus also has won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award; the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship; and with wife Barbara is in the Ambassador David M. Walter International Pediatric Hall of Fame.
“To be the first recipient of the Ali Legacy Award is both humbling and an honor,” Nicklaus said.