We've lost an iconic sports legend today as baseball great Hank Aaron has sadly passed away. Aaron reportedly died in his sleep, but a cause of death hasn't yet been announced. His passing was confirmed by the Atlanta Braves, with the MLB team stating they're "absolutely devastated" by the news and referring to Aaron as a "beacon for our organization." He was 86 years old
"His incredible talent and resolve helped him achieve the highest accomplishments, yet he never lost his humble nature," the team added. "Henry Louis Aaron wasn't just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world. His success on the diamond was matched only by his business accomplishments off the field and capped by his extraordinary philanthropic efforts."
Hank Aaron was born on Feb. 5, 1934. Taking an early interest in professional baseball, Aaron had his first MLB tryout for the Brooklyn Dodgers at the age of 15. After playing in indie leagues, Aaron would make his MLB debut by signing with the Braves at the age of 20. The hard-hitting, record-setting slugger would then embark on a 23-year career on the diamond, establishing himself as one of baseball's all-time greatest players in the process.
Known in the MLB as Hammerin' Hank, Aaron famously broke Babe Ruth's home run record of 714 in 1973. He would later retire in 1976 with 755 home runs, a record that held for over 30 years until it was surpassed by Barry Bonds in 2007. Aaron's accolades also include a World Series win in 1957 along with being named the National League MVP that same year, three Gold Gloves, and two NL batting titles. After retirement, Aaron would later be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1982. In honor of Aaron, the number 44 has also been retired by the Braves to forever remember his legacy.
Colleagues and fans are paying tribute to Aaron in the wake of his death. Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is among them, saying of the news, "While the world knew him as 'Hammering Hank Aaron' because of his incredible, record-setting baseball career, he was a cornerstone of our village, graciously and freely joining Mrs. Aaron in giving their presence and resources toward making our city a better place."
"Rest in Peace to American hero, icon, and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron," NBA legend Magic Johnson also tweeted. "I still remember where I was back in the day when he set the record, at that time, to become the home run all time leader. While a legendary athlete, Hank Aaron was also an extraordinary businessman and paved the way for other athletes like me to successfully transition into business. Hank Aaron is on the Mount Rushmore for the greatest baseball players of all time! Rest In Peace my friend. Cookie and I are praying for the entire Aaron family."
11-time NBA champ Bill Russell also said, "Heartbroken to see another true friend & pioneer has passed away. @HenryLouisAaron was so much better than his reputation! His contributions were much more than just baseball. Jeannine & I send our Folded hands & deepest condolences to his wife & kids."
Barry Bonds, who famously broke Aaron's homerun record in 2007, also tweeted, "I was lucky enough to spend time with Hank on several occasions during my career and have always had the deepest respect and admiration for all that he did both on and off the field. He is an icon, a legend and a true hero to so many, who will be forever missed."