FACT CHECK: Did Muhammad Ali Say This Quote About The ‘Impossible’?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook credits professional boxer Muhammad Ali with saying, “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’re given than to explore the power they have to change it.”

Verdict: False

The quote actually comes from a copywriter for Adidas’ 2004 brand advertising campaign.

Fact Check:

Widely regarded as an important sports figure of the 20th century, Ali was a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion, with 56 wins over the course of his career. (RELATED: Did Yogi Berra Say, ‘In Theory There Is No Difference Between Practice And Theory. In Practice, There Is’?)

Though he made numerous quotable comments during his lifetime, the Daily Caller found no record of Ali ever making the statement. An internet search turned up no instances of him saying the expression in interviews. It doesn’t appear on his verified Twitter account or in his autobiographies either.

“The Muhammad Ali misattribution occurred because he was featured prominently in an Adidas ad blitz, and sometimes the words were printed on his picture,” writes the website Quote Investigator.

Indeed, sportswear company Adidas employed a longer version of the statement in its 2004 “Impossible is Nothing” brand advertising campaign. The entire “manifesto,” which was superimposed onto or adjacent to images of well-known athletes, reads:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’re given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary.”

“The true creators were ad copy professionals,” Quote Investigator further explains.

Aimee Lehto Schewe, a copywriter who worked on the campaign, coined the specific statement attributed to Ali in this Facebook post as part of the campaign’s longer “manifesto,” according to her website.

“It continues to resonate and get passed around on the internet, quoted by celebrities, and misattributed to Muhammad Ali,” writes Lehto Schewe. “Which is super flattering! But also a little frustrating. But mostly great!”

Ali’s daughter Laila, also a world champion boxer, appeared in the ad campaign too.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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