Former South Africa president Nelson Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95, and the world was forced to say goodbye to one of the most inspirational and influential leaders ever.
Mandela was known most for his revolutionary work in ending apartheid in South Africa, but he was also an extremely important figure in the sports world, among so many other things. As SportsCenter's Twitter feed pointed out, he once talked about sports' great power:
In a 2006 speech, Nelson Mandela spoke about the power of sports. "Sport has the power to change the world." pic.twitter.com/NfLQ3mROsZ— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 5, 2013
With the immeasurable effect Mandela had on the world, it wasn't surprising to see professional athletes pouring out their support.
When it comes to sports, Mandela was most known for his work on the South African rugby team, and current player Jean de Villiers talked about Mandela's presence and impact:
Jean de Villiers: "His presence at a Test Match just lifted the crowd and energised the team - it is actually hard to describe." #Mandela— South African Rugby (@bokrugby) December 5, 2013
JdV: “He inspired South Africans, who for so long were very divided, to peacefully build a united Rainbow Nation.” #Mandela— South African Rugby (@bokrugby) December 5, 2013
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is known as one of the most charitable professional athletes in America, provided his own thoughts on Mandela's passing:
Golfer Tiger Woods, who met Mandela in 1998, had the following to say, via the Golf Channel's Twitter account:
TW on Mandela's passing: "It's sad. It's sad for everyone...who's been influenced by him."— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) December 5, 2013
Tiger met Mandela in 1998. "He invited us to his home, and it was one of the (most) inspiring times I've ever had in my life."— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) December 5, 2013
Other athletes chose to honor Mandela's legacy by posting some quotes from the legendary figure. Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins used this famous example:
MLB players Brandon Phillips and Shane Victorino gave the longer versions of the same quote, while also adding their own sentiments:
Very sorry to hear about the passing of Nelson Mandela. What an incredible legacy! pic.twitter.com/64OlDc8TX3— Shane Victorino (@ShaneVictorino) December 5, 2013
Others who were lucky enough to meet Mandela and be touched in person by his wonderful presence shared pictures.
Here's one from Pele, one of the most famous football players of all time:
Today, I am very saddened. Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential people in my life. pic.twitter.com/zzixsqm1Af— Pelé (@Pele) December 5, 2013
World-class Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo added this:
Thankful Madiba for your legacy and your example. You"ll always stay with us. pic.twitter.com/IA72uYB6N4— Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) December 5, 2013
Former Detroit Pistons guards Isiah Thomas provided this terrific snapshot of Mandela decked out in Pistons gear:
Nelson Mandela, thank you for making the world a better place. R.I.P pic.twitter.com/ny1zEVB63l— Isiah Thomas (@iamisiahthomas) December 5, 2013
Other high-profile stars such as the Miami Heat's LeBron James and Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III tweeted:
#RestInPeace 2 Nelson Mandela.— King James (@LeBronJames) December 5, 2013
Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela and Thank you #RIPNelsonMandela— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) December 5, 2013
James also shared his thoughts before facing the Chicago Bulls, via Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick:
His words, his mind, will live on forever. In his 95 years, he was able to do some unbelievable things, not only for South Africa, but for the whole world. You hate to lose a pioneer, a great, but what they can leave behind means more than anything. And I think what Nelson Mandela will leave behind is more than him himself, like Martin Luther King and so many other greats that's come and go. It's a sad day for his family, obviously, but for us to be in this position to see what he meant to this world while he was able to be here, means everything.
Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar put it simply, saying that Mandela's death is akin to "a bright light" going out:
Nelson Mandela was a great man. A bright light has gone out. His ability to lead & inspire are unparalleled in my lifetime.— Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (@kaj33) December 5, 2013
The honoring of Nelson Mandela's life spread to the ice, as well, as the Toronto Maple Leafs held a moment of silence before Thursday's game:
A moment of silence was held before the game to remember the life of Nelson Mandela pic.twitter.com/qdSzmDOwaE— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) December 6, 2013
Considering the wide spectrum of athletes of various sports who took time to honor him, there's no question Mandela's impact was far-reaching.
This is truly a sad day, but it is quite clear that Mandela influenced and inspired millions upon millions of individuals during his lifetime, and his legacy and memory will continue to live on through his philosophy, his words and the impact he had on so many people all over the world.