(Two legends in their primes, filming the greatest martial arts movie ever made.)
With surprisingly little reaction from the MMA blogosphere, martial arts pioneer Jim Kelly passed away over the weekend at the age of sixty-seven years old. Odds are pretty good that you recognize Kelly as Williams from Enter The Dragon, but his legacy is far greater than just that one role. Armed with his signature afro, one-liners and arsenal of kicks, Kelly broke the color-barrier for black actors in martial arts films at a time when the genre was almost exclusively reserved for Asian martial artists.
Aside from being one of the most instantly recognizable martial artists on the planet, Kelly also found the time to become a professional tennis player, an enthusiastic MMA fan, and a popular draw at conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con International. So in memory of Kelly, we’ve compiled videos of some of his greatest fights, interviews, and even some footage of him playing tennis. Enjoy.
Kelly and Lee working on fight scenes for Enter the Dragon.
“Please understand, if I missed anyone, it’s been a big day. I’m a little tired.”
Arguably the most famous line of his career. Don’t even dream about pulling this line off as effortlessly as Kelly.
Highlights from Black Belt Jones, a blaxploitation staple.
Since we’re still on Black Belt Jones, we might as well include this scene.
If we ever do a “Greatest Fight Scene” Roundtable, this gem from Three the Hard Way already has my vote locked up.
The Tattoo Connection, in its entirety.
Same thing for One Down, Two To Go.
Included for scenes and facts about his tennis career.
Kelly makes a special contribution to a Lebron James Nike commercial in 2004.
One last interview with the legendary grandmaster, at a time when Shamrock/Toney actually seemed like a thing that would happen.