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AP’s global coverage of Ali’s death wins story of the year

AP sports columnist Tim Dahlberg and a global team of reporters won story of the year honors for coverage of Muhammad Ali's death and funeral in the annual contest for AP staffers judged by the Associated Press Sports Editors.

The series, anchored by Dahlberg, Louisville-based reporters Claire Galofaro and Bruce Schreiner, Cape Town, South Africa-based sports writer Gerald Imray and a team of AP journalists examined Ali’s impact from his hometown of Louisville to points around the globe.

“Muhammad Ali was different things to different people. He was a political figure as well as an athlete and became an icon. It’s not easy to succinctly capture all of that, but this series did so effectively,” the judges said.

Other contest winners from the AP:

— Paris-based sports writer John Leicester won the Grimsley award for body of work for a series that examined the ramifications of doping from elite races to 5Ks in small-town America. “The global issues addressed were relatable at a local level, which made the work appealing to the widest variety of readers. And that’s not always an easy task to accomplish,” the judges said. “Also, the writing throughout was clear, and it struck the right tone at the right time.”

— Los Angeles-based photographer Mark J. Terrill won for best portfolio of work for a collection of work that included Kobe Bryant’s final game. “What didn’t Mark shoot in 2016? His portfolio displayed a talented eye when it came to catching action, celebration, dejection and important moments off the field. It was the perfect diverse mix of action, reaction and art,” the judges said.

— Atlanta-based national writer Paul Newberry won in two categories. His story of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s first home, built by Habitat for Humanity, won in the feature writing category. A column about the Cubs World Series win was awarded with the deadline writing prize.

— Denver-based national writer Eddie Pells and Washington, D.C.-based sports writer Howard Fendrich won an enterprise writing award for a story that surveyed NFL players and determined that concussions were not their top concern, despite a growing body of research that shows long-term health risks.

— Pittsburgh-based photographer Gene Puskar received an award for feature photography for a picture that showed LeBron James celebrating at Cleveland’s championship parade. “The sheer joy of it all wasn’t lost on LeBron – who juked and dabbed his way through the championship parade. Puskar was there to capture this moment – which tells the tale of a city’s epic celebration, exuberance and relief after finally winning the big one – all through the look of contentment on James’ face,” the judges said.

— Chicago-based photographer Charles Arbogast’s picture of “The Anti-Bartman” from the Cubs World Series run won an award for action photography. “The photographer captures both the athleticism involving in making a spectacular catch at a huge moment and the reactions of nearby Cubs fans and a few billion watching on TV who are all thinking the same thing – “Please don’t let this be another Steve Bartman play.” What makes the photo truly terrific is the one Cubs fan – complete with a beer in his left hand – using his right arm to push back his fellow spectator just to make sure the Chicago right fielder Jason Heyward is able to make the play.”

The awards, selected during a recent meeting of the nation’s top sports editors in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, will be handed out at APSE’s annual convention in New Orleans in June.

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