Remarks to the Los Angeles Lakers, the National Basketball Association Champions

June 10, 1985

The President. Well, I thank you all very much for that greeting, but believe me these are the ones that deserve the applause. And it is we who today will say, ``Hail to the Lakers.''

It was a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the White House. Your entire championship series down to yesterday's great win was an inspiration. And all of you showed America what pride, determination, and guts can accomplish when they're combined with some of the best talent on the floor.

Yesterday afternoon, it really was showtime in the Boston Garden. And your victory is all the greater because you won it from another truly great team. When you went to the Garden, you knew that the next two games were going to decide the championship either way, and you knew that even though you were playing in Boston it wasn't going to be any tea party. [Laughter]

Kareem says that yesterday's victory was just like the Brooklyn Dodgers' breakthrough against the Yankees in the 1955 World Series. Well, Kareem, I remember that series, so I think you may be, as they sometimes say of me, showing your experience. [Laughter]

But yesterday all you showed was why you've been voted the most valuable player of the series. As so many said, you're 38, but you played like you were 25. And that 14-foot sky hook with only 61 seconds left in the game was truly a thing of beauty. All I can say is we're all looking forward to seeing you defend the Lakers' championship title next year.

And then there was your teammate, Magic Johnson, who put in a magnificent performance. Magic, you ended the series with 84 assists, breaking the record for a 6-game championship series by an awesome 24. Does America believe in Magic? You bet we do. [Laughter]

Some may have thought the Celtics' title was an immovable object, but yesterday they came up against an irresistible force by the name of James Worthy. I don't know what all those sirens are doing; we're all here. [Laughter] But the Celtics' head coach said that one of the reasons his team lost was they just couldn't stop James Worthy. And, James, if you're ever thinking of a career after basketball, we've got some lobbying work up on Capitol Hill -- [laughter] -- that we could use you for.

Kurt Rambis and Mitch Kupchak also get great credit for their tenacious and aggressive play. And I think Kurt ought to win an etiquette award for the player with the best manners. [Laughter] It's not everybody who knows what to say when he dives over the sidelines and into a lady's lap. [Laughter]

Everyone on the Lakers' team deserves praise, and there's certainly enough credit to go around. Though you've got your full complement of stars, it's teamplay that made you great. And for that, for the training, the strategy, and the never-say-die encouragement that went into making you number one, we have your great coach, Pat Riley, to thank.

And I understand that the Lakers' family has not only been an example for young people on the court but also off the court. Lakers' wives have taken on drug abuse prevention as their special project. And I want you to know how grateful both Nancy and I are for your important work in this area.

Well, the Lakers are no longer simply L.A.'s heroes; today you belong to the whole country; you're America's champions. And we're mighty proud of you. So, congratulations, and well done, and God bless you all.

Commissioner Stern. Mr. President, thank you for your kind invitation and gracious remarks. Because of basketball's purely domestic origins, we're proud to be called America's game.

The NBA championship series confirmed that description, Mr. President -- a diverse group of players and coaches from all parts of this great country once again demonstrated that sacrifice, hard work, and team-play lead to success.

It is my honor as commissioner of the NBA to present to you the 1985 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, who will be represented at the podium by the captain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the irrepressible Magic Johnson, and the head coach, Pat Riley.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I was telling the President that I'm not a Republican, but I am one of his constituents, and because of that, I figured we should suit him up the right way.

The President. Thank you very much.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Just so we know who's number one here. [Laughter]

The President. Thank you very much. I'm very proud to have this.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. My pleasure. Thank you.

Magic Johnson. I guess I'm next. [Laughter] This is just another one of our gifts to say thank you for having us here and -- what more can I say? I think Kareem said it all. And this is just great being here, being with the President and all you good people. So, here it is, to you.

The President. Well, thank you. Thanks very much.

Coach Riley. Mr. President, on behalf of the players and the entire Laker organization, we would like to express our appreciation and gratitude for this honor, for being able to come to the White House, because we know that there's only one other place other than Los Angeles that there's a winner, and that's here. So, we appreciate that, Mr. President.

And we also know that, occasionally, you like to head west and -- the ranch out there -- and when you hit that Arizona-California border, we want you to be a little casual with the 1985 championship hat and a championship shirt.

The President. Thank you very much. Thank you.

I just have to explain something. The reason that they had to bend over to reach the microphone was because if I'd put it up at their height, there's no way I could stretch that high, but they could always bend down a little bit. I appreciate your doing that.

Thank you all very much. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 2:12 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. During the ceremony, the President received a jersey, a cap, and an autographed basketball.