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How Emmett Till's murder affected Muhammad Ali

No one impacted Muhammad Ali more than Emmett Till.

On Wednesday afternoon, LeBron James made a reference to Emmett Till in his NBA Finals press conference. James told reporters that a racial slur was spray-painted on the front gate of one of his homes.

Los Angeles Police are investigating the incident as an act of vandalism and a possible hate crime.

James said that "being black in America is tough" and that he thinks "back to Emmett Till's mom and the reason she had an open casket, she wanted to show the world what her son went through in terms of a hate crime in America."

The comments by James should come as no surprise since he is one of the most outspoken stars in sports.

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In 1955, Till was just 14 years old when he was killed after calling a white cashier "baby." The women's husband and her half brother showed up at Till's uncle's house, dragged Till out of his bed and shot him in the head. Till's body was tossed into the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi. 

James' reference to Till reflect those previously by Muhammad Ali. Growing up, the boxing great was shocked by photos of Emmett Till's body and it affirmed his role of using boxing as a way to advance a black person in America and the Jim Crow South.

"Emmett Till and I were about the same age," Ali wrote in The Greatest. "A week after he was murdered in Sunflower County, Mississippi, I stood on the corner with a gang of boys, looking at pictures of him in the black newspapers and magazines. In one, he was laughing and happy. In the other, his head was swollen and based in. His mother had done a bold thing. She refused to let him be buried until thousands marched past his open casket in Chicago and looked down at his mutilated body. I felt a deep kinship to him especially when I learned he was born the same year and day I was. My father talked about it at night and dramatized the crime."