Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James has called Muhammad Ali the greatest athlete of all time. But on Friday afternoon, hours before Ali died at age 74, James said it was Ali's work and influence outside the boxing ring that he will remember most.

"When I was a kid, I was amazed by what Ali did in the ring," LeBron told ESPN.com. "As I got older and started to read about him and watch things about him, I started to realize what he did in the ring was secondary to what he meant outside of the ring -- just his influence, what he stood for."

As an African-American, James said Ali is largely responsible for his ability to enjoy not only fame and wealth as a professional athlete but also the opportunities that come with it.