Michael Phelps won his 23rd gold medal Saturday night in the 4x100 medley relay, what he insists will be the final race of his career. Now indesputably the greatest Olympian of all time and arguably one of the greatest American athletes of all time, Phelps is an idol.
But the man everyone looks up to still looks up to someone else: Ravens legend Ray Lewis.
Speaking to NBC's Michele Tafoya after climbing out the pool, Phelps insisted he was retiring for good.
"I was talking to Ray Lewis earlier today. I know he's watching. And we just had a great talk," a teary-eyed Phelps said. "It's not the end of a career, it's the beginning of a new journey. And I'm just looking forward to that."
And Lewis was watching ... and tweeting.
🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖🎖 what a way 2 ride off into the sunset! pic.twitter.com/BlyskotGt2— Ray Lewis (@raylewis) August 14, 2016
You did it your way, inspired many by falling but never staying down. I love you man, congrats USA!!! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/LP2OyZs1zK— Ray Lewis (@raylewis) August 14, 2016
Phelps, whose struggles with alcohol threatened to derail his career, credited Lewis with inspiring him to return to swimming after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“What he did for me is the best thing in the world. He helped me come back," Phelps told The Washington Post in 2013. He was speaking from the Ravens' locker room after their 2013 Super Bowl win, the final game of Lewis' career.
“We’ve talked about so much the last couple years of my career,” Phelps said. “He just helped me get through a lot of hard times, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him."
“He’s probably the only person who could really help me do that,” Phelps continued. “He’s been through everything — the ups and downs — and he’s helped me literally overcome a lot of things that I’ve had in my life that have been tough, and he’s been there for me.”
It's fitting that two Baltimore sports legends – both laid low by very public transgressions – would be on hand to support each other in the last competitions of their careers.