On Nov. 30, 2007, the man who had defied death by jumping over canyons, buses and tanks of sharks simply couldn't defy it any longer. At age 69, Evel Knievel died after battling diabetes, an incurable lung condition and the effects of a career spent making hard landings. He was survived by four children, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
However, Knivel's legacy goes well beyond family. References to Knievel have shown up everywhere from "The Simpsons" to a Kanye West video. MTV's "Jackass" is a direct descendant of Knievel's showmanship -- and the knowledge (that Evel Knievel cultivated), that some people watch a stunt to see it succeed while others watch to see it fail.
In 2005, Ideal Toys re-released the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle, allowing a generation of people who grew up making a tiny Evel Knievel do death-defying stunts on their living room floor a chance to share that form of play with their kids. Knievel's motorcycle, a 1972 Harley-Davidson XR-750, is on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Because of his influence on a generation of risk-taking athletes, Knievel is sometimes called "The Father of the X Games." Each summer, his life is celebrated with incredible motorcycle stunts at Evel Knievel Days in Butte, Mont.
But, kids who grew up in the 1970s don't need to look far to see the impact Evel Knievel made on American life. They can see it in the scars on their elbows and knees and remember exactly the way it felt to fly through the air just like Evel Knievel -- even if they missed the landing.
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