Blood Brothers

The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X


By Randy Roberts

By Johnny Smith

Read by David Drummond

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around March 14, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

An “engrossing and important book" (Wall Street Journal) that brings to life the fateful friendship between Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali

In 1962, boxing writers and fans considered Cassius Clay an obnoxious self-promoter, and few believed that he would become the heavyweight champion of the world. But Malcolm X, the most famous minister in the Nation of Islam, saw the potential in Clay, not just for boxing greatness, but as a means of spreading the Nation’s message. The two became fast friends, keeping their interactions secret from the press for fear of jeopardizing Clay’s career. Clay began living a double life—a patriotic “good negro” in public, and a radical reformer behind the scenes. Soon, however, their friendship would sour, with disastrous and far-reaching consequences.

Based on previously untapped sources, from Malcolm’s personal papers to FBI records, Blood Brothers is the first book to offer an in-depth portrait of this complex bond. An extraordinary narrative of love and deep affection, as well as deceit, betrayal, and violence, this story is a window into the public and private lives of two of our greatest national icons, and the tumultuous period in American history that they helped to shape.


  • Winner of the 2017 North American Society for Sport History Book Award
  • "[An] absorbing and provocative new book... An engrossing and important book."
    David Margolick, Wall Street Journal
  • "A rigorously researched book that gracefully pivots between the world of the ring and the racial politics of the early '60s."
    New York Times Book Review
  • "Earnest and...smartly constructed."
    Washington Post
  • "Exhaustively researched and tautly written.... The authors unearth reams of new evidence, shine light on long-overlooked episodes, and hack away at the barnacles of mythology, thereby giving us the finest portrait yet of the doomed relationship that transformed Cassius Clay into Muhammad Ali."
    James Rosen, National Review
  • "Though their individual lives have been explored through previous books and movies, Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X delves into the close kinship these men shared, and the reasons it ultimately fell apart."
  • "This book offers a significant contribution to serious studies of Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and the Nation of Islam."
    Library Journal
  • "The authors give us a thorough examination of the relationship between the two icons in the context of the black experience and the turbulent 1960s.... We're brought back to the champ's early boxing days and see how the brash Ali whom America came to know developed."
    New York Post
  • "The broad outlines of the Ali/Malcolm drama are well known, but Roberts and Smith emphasize how crucial each was to the other's destiny: Ali's as a global figure of black pride and Malcolm's as a martyred black visionary. They provide more exhaustive detail than previously available, aided by newly released FBI files and personal papers. And they infuse the tale with sharp insights and an impending sense of tragedy."
    City Journal
  • "[A] provocative history.... Roberts and Smith map the relationship between the troubled icons in painstaking detail and debunk long-held assumptions about their break.... Roberts and Smith bring a fresh perspective to the story in the civil rights movement, and capture the ferment of the broader era."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "[Roberts and Smith] sharply detail Malcolm's growing disillusionment with Elijah, his heartbreak at the loss of Ali's allegiance, and the ugly dynamic within the Nation that left the defiant minister murdered. A page-turning tale from the 1960s about politics and sports and two proud, extraordinary men whose legacies endure."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • "Thanks to Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith's enthralling narrative we now have a better understanding of how a complex relationship was born, and how it fell apart."
    The Times
  • "A unique hybrid of race, politics, and sports; it is easy to read yet gives rise to sober reflection. It fills a gap in our understanding of one of the most fascinating relationships in American history."
    Allen Barra, Boston Globe
  • "Roberts and Smith portray both of these courageous and controversial, inspired and inspiring men with fresh, stinging clarity, and extend our perception of the interconnectivity of race, religion, sports, and media during this violent and transformative era, which is so very germane today."
  • "In convincing detail, Blood Brothers traces Ali's rise to international celebrity while Malcolm was stalked and harassed by the Fruit of Islam, the paramilitary group that enforced obedience to the church."
    Los Angeles Times
  • "In the most detailed account to date of this fascinating bond, professors of history Randy Roberts (Purdue) and Johnny Smith (Georgia Tech) unveil a story few Americans know, arguing that Ali and Malcolm were much more than mere acquaintances; their symbiotic relationship, with Ali as pupil and Malcolm as mentor, was deeply important to each man. From beginning to end, Blood Brothers is a story of transformation."
    Dallas Morning News
  • "Blood Brothers is shedding light on the secret friendship between boxing great Muhammad Ali and civil rights leader Malcolm X."
    Washington Times
  • "In this illuminating joint effort, Blood Brothers tells the story of a strange friendship marked by initial affection, cold manipulation, and ultimate estrangement."
    Howell Raines, former executive editor of the New York Times
  • "There's brilliant history in this crackling story of two men whose tragic brotherhood changed America. Absorbing and essential reading."
    Robert Lipsyte, former sports columnist for the New York Times

On Sale
Mar 14, 2023
Hachette Audio

Randy Roberts

About the Author

Randy Roberts is distinguished professor of history at Purdue University. An award-winning author, he focuses on the intersection of popular and political culture, and has written or co-written biographies of such iconic athletes and celebrities as Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Bear Bryant, Oscar Robertson, John Wayne and Muhammad Ali, as well as books on the Vietnam War, the Alamo, the 1973-1974 college basketball season, and West Point football during World War II. A Season in the Sun is the second book he has written with Johnny Smith. Roberts lives in Lafayette, Indiana.

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Johnny Smith

About the Author

Johnny Smith is the Julius C. “Bud” Shaw Professor in Sports, Society, and Technology and an Assistant Professor of History at Georgia Tech. He is the co-author of Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (with Randy Roberts) and the author of The Sons of Westwood: John Wooden, UCLA, and the Dynasty That Changed College Basketball. Smith lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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