In his final Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony, President Barack Obama honored NBA Legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan along with iconic Dodgers sportscaster Vin Scully. They were among 21 other honorees, which included Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, and Robert De Niro.
Obama’s speeches to the athletes were full of sincerity, recognizing how the players influenced the history of sports and America.
“He’s as comfortable sparring with Bruce Lee as he is advocating on Capitol Hill or with writing, with extraordinary eloquence, about patriotism,” Obama said regards to Abdul-Jabbar. “Physically, intellectually, spiritually, Kareem is one of a kind; An American who illuminates both our most basic freedoms and our highest aspirations.”
There were also lighthearted moments, bringing up Abdul-Jabbar’s cameo in the movies “Airplane” and “Game of Death,” Obama also called Jordan “the guy from ‘Space Jam’.”
“He’s more than just a logo, more than just an internet meme,” the President said in reference to the Crying Jordan meme. “He’s more than just a charitable donor or business owner committed to diversity. There is a reason why you call somebody ‘the Michael Jordan of’.”
Obama noted how Scully is “an old friend” to “Americans of all ages” because of his way of telling stories while commentating Dodgers games.
“Since Jackie Robinson started at second base, Vin taught us the game and introduced us to its players,” Obama said about Scully. “He narrated the improbable years, the impossible heroics, turned contests into conversations.”
The Showtime Lakers player began his historic basketball career at UCLA under the tutelage of head coach John Wooden. He helped the Bruins to three national championships. Abdul-Jabbar earned one NBA championship for the Milwaukee Bucks before coming to the Los Angeles Lakers. With Los Angeles, he earned five NBA Championships.
The Chicago Bulls icon played for the Georgetown Hoyas, aiding the basketball team to a Division I NCAA championship and was the NCAA Player of the Year twice. Jordan assisted the Chicago Bulls to winning six NBA championships; he is a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Scully played for the Fordham University baseball team for two seasons. He also worked with the university’s radio station commentating on football, baseball, and basketball games. In 1950, Scully became a member of the Dodgers broadcast team. He was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.