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When it came to sport, Nelson Mandela had the ability to inspire even inspirational figures and leave global stars completely star-struck. New York Islanders Shop Free Shipping . The anti-apartheid leader, former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner died on Thursday at the age of 95, prompting a vast outpouring of tributes from the worlds best-known athletes and top sporting bodies. Muhammad Ali, himself a role model for so many, said Mandela inspired others to «reach for what appeared to be impossible.» «What I will remember most about Mr. Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge,» Ali said in a statement through his foundation. Pele wrote, «He was my hero, my friend.» Tiger Woods called his meeting with Mandela in 1998 «inspiring times.» «Its sad for everyone who got a chance to not only meet him, but Ive been influenced by him,» Woods said. Usain Bolt posted on Twitter: «One of the greatest human beings ever.» The NBAs LeBron James said: «In his 95 years, he was able to do unbelievable things not only for South Africa but for the whole world.» As much as sportsmen and women loved Mandela, he in turn loved sport and appreciated its enormous potential to do good. Nowhere more than in his own country, where he famously used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to knock down the last barriers of apartheid. «A remarkable man who understood that sport could build bridges, break down walls, and reveal our common humanity,» International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said in a statement to The Associated Press. The IOC would fly the Olympic flag at half-staff for three days for Mandela, he said. Bach later choked up while speaking about when he met Mandela in 1996 and asked the former political prisoner if he felt hatred toward the apartheid regime that imprisoned him for 27 years. «His immediate response was no but he saw the doubt in my eyes,» Bach said on Friday. «You dont believe me? he asked. I can tell you why. If I hate I would not be a free man anymore.» Bach wasnt the only one to show his emotions. Gary Player paused while speaking at a golf tournament in South Africa to compose himself and wipe away tears. «When you think of a man going to jail for all those years for doing the right thing, not the wrong thing, its hard to comprehend that a man can come out and be like that,» Player said. «He was an exceptional man, just exceptional.» FIFA president Sepp Blatter said he and world football were in mourning at Mandelas passing and ordered that the 209 flags of its member countries at FIFA headquarters in Switzerland also be flown at half-staff. «It is in deep mourning that I pay my respects to an extraordinary person, probably one of the greatest humanists of our time and a dear friend of mine,» Blatter said. From a cricket test in Australia to basketball games in the United States, and a golf tournament in the wilderness of South Africa, Mandela was remembered by players and fans across sport with moments of silence. A keen amateur boxer and runner in his youth, Mandela understood the intricacies of rugby, football and cricket, the most popular sports in his country, but even games and players the South African wouldnt have been familiar with were touched by him. «Nelson Mandela was one of the most powerful and inspirational leaders in the world and a great friend of the NBA,» league commissioner David Stern said, "… and while we mourn his passing, we know that his legacy and quest for equality will endure." Sport was never far from Mandelas mind. He was there — often the driving force — when South Africa returned to the Olympic family, won rugbys World Cup, won footballs African Cup and earned the right to host FIFAs World Cup in 2010, the first in Africa. It was fitting that Mandelas last appearance for an adoring public was when he greeted fans in a packed stadium on the outskirts of Soweto ahead of the 2010 World Cup final. «When he was honoured and cheered by the crowd… it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts, and it was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced,» Blatter said. A string of Spains World Cup winners from that year and Portugals Cristiano Ronaldo all tweeted messages of condolence, with many including photographs of themselves with Mandela. Global superstars Woods and David Beckham both made a point of meeting him when they travelled to South Africa. Woods came out of his audience with a copy of the mans autobiography and Beckham was almost reverent in their 2003 meeting. «We have lost a true gentleman and a courageous human being,» Beckham said on his Facebook page. «It was truly an honour to have known a man who had genuine love for so many people.» South African golfer Ernie Els said that from around 1996 onwards Mandela would call him every time he won a tournament and they once exchanged gifts after Mandela visited him at a tournament near the ex-presidents Johannesburg home. «Ive still got that picture in my office in the U.S.,» Els said. «He was just the most amazing person I have ever met.» But Mandelas interest in sport wasnt just for the grand occasion and the photo opportunity. Recalling his first conversation with a still imprisoned Mandela in 1986 and away from the media spotlight, former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser said Mandelas first question was about cricket and the man regarded as that sports greatest player. «His first remark to me, after hello, was… Mr. Fraser, is Donald Bradman still alive?» Fraser later brought him a bat signed by Bradman. Crickets finest batsman had written «in recognition of a great unfinished innings» for Mandela on the bat. What Mandela did at that 1995 Rugby World Cup final is one of sports defining moments and enshrined in the new South Africas conscience. By pulling on the green and gold jersey of the Springboks, the national team previously all-white and associated with the apartheid regime, Mandela signalled to all South Africans that they should unite. His presentation of the trophy to the Springboks blond captain Francois Pienaar provided a lasting image of reconciliation that politics just couldnt match. «It was our privilege to have lived in this country during his lifetime,» South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins said. After 1995, Mandela commonly referred to the team that had previously been boycotted abroad for its associations with apartheid as «my beloved Springboks.» Current Springboks captain Jean de Villiers said: «His presence at a test match just lifted the crowd and energized the team — it is actually hard to describe.» Even for New Zealands losing rugby captain on that famous June day in 1995, Sean Fitzpatrick, Mandelas effect was too momentous not to appreciate. «Afterwards, when we were driving back to our hotel crying, to see the sheer enjoyment of everyone running down the streets… black, white, colored, whatever they were, just arm in arm celebrating sport,» Fitzpatrick said. «He saw the bigger picture.» Authentic Ryan Pulock Jersey . The NFL says Wednesday that the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions at Wembley on Oct. 26 will start at 1:30 p. Cheap New York Islanders Gear .J. — The New York Jets have signed former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Graham Harrell, giving them some added depth at the position.MIAMI — Chris Bosh travelled the world this summer with his family and tried to give his mind and body a break from basketball after helping the Miami Heat win a second straight championship. The body got that break. But the mind, not so much. Bosh couldnt stop assessing his season with the Miami Heat and wound up coming to a somewhat surprising conclusion: He could have done much more. So this season, with a third straight title being the ultimate goal that the Heat will start to chase when training camp opens this week, Bosh also has a personal goal in mind. «To be quite frank,» Bosh said in an interview with The Associated Press, «Im trying to have the best season of my career.» Thats big words from someone who enters his 11th pro season with career averages of 19.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and is coming off a season where he shot a career-best 53 per cent from the field. But as Bosh spent time in Spain, France, Morocco, Italy, India and «a whole lot of Porto places,» he said, he kept thinking back to moments that got away, even in a year where Miami won 66 games and posted a 27-game winning streak. Something, for whatever reason, was missing, he said. «Ive really been hard on myself for not having that hunger last year,» Bosh said. «I cant believe I didnt have it. But Im excited. Thats part of the reason why Im so eager and ready to really get this season started. I feel I have a lot of things to prove this year. I want to be one of the best players in the league and I have the ability to do that — of course, within the teamwork that we already have. Authentic Mike Bossy Jersey. But theres another level I can take it to.» The Heat will have their annual media day in Miami on Monday; Bosh isnt sure if he will be there for at least some of the festivities, since he may have a family matter to tend to first, but is certain to be on the plane when the team flies to the Bahamas early Monday evening. The first two training camp practices of the season are Tuesday at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. For the most part, the team remains intact — Mike Miller has departed after being designated Miamis amnesty-provision player, and the Heat used some of the resulting financial flexibility to add Michael Beasley, Greg Oden and Roger Mason Jr., among others, with hopes of adding some extra depth. «It really hasnt sunk in yet,» Beasley said last week. Some of the moves havent hit Bosh yet, either. «Its amazing that were able every summer to find ways to get better as a team,» Bosh said. The same, he hopes, can be said for him as an individual. At this point, its not about reinventing his game, but refining it. Bosh insists that whatever ailed him last season wont be an issue when coach Erik Spoelstra blows the seasons first whistle on Tuesday. «I want to carry more of the load on offence and on defence,» Bosh said. «Its going to take more if we want to win three in a row. 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