Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks on Meeting the Boston Celtics, the National Basketball Association World Champions

June 13, 1984

Well, I thank you, and by the way, I'd like to let you in on a little secret. I wanted to welcome all of you in the Oval Office, and then I found out the ceiling is too low. [Laughter]

But from the Boston Garden to the Rose Garden, it's been quite a year for the Celtics, the team Boston loves and all the world admires. Over the regular season you all lived up to your awesome reputation by compiling a 62-20 record, the best in the NBA. And then came victory in the playoffs, finally the ultimate test, the championship series against the superb Los Angeles Lakers. They weren't just as superb as they should have been. [Laughter]

But the battle for the title turned into a spectacular, stretching over three weekends. Both teams were great, with stars on each side rising to peak performances that dazzled and thrilled the country. And last night the whole season came down to one game.

Six times before, the Boston Celtics had played in a championship series that went to seven games. Six times before, the Celtics won. And we watched, holding our breath, wondering if you'd beat the odds again, do it again. You threw yourselves into that final battle with all the pride and determination and heart that have made you a legend in basketball history. And time and again, you came down with key rebounds, shutting off the Lakers fast break. "You can't run without the ball," said Magic Johnson, "and the Celtics seemed to rebound it every time."'

On the defensive boards you were a cascade, shooting again and again, and scoring: Cedric Maxwell, 24 points; Dennis Johnson, 22; and Larry Bird, 20. And the final score: 111 to 102, the Celtics had done it again.

So many people ask, how do the Celtics do it? How do you keep coming back? How, during that crucial moment of the seventh game of a championship series, do they always manage to reach within, to find that spark that's needed for victory?

Well, Cedric Maxwell put it quite simply last night: "How could anyone have thought we'd lose? We are the Celtics, you know." Well, you are the Celtics, and like the original Celtics, the great Irish warriors in olden times, you have fought for and won great victories and great glory.

They have won, this team, 15 championships; 8 of them since 1959. And if I have my information correct, all 8 of those were with the Los Angeles Lakers, since 1959.

Well, yours is a tradition of hard work, of teamwork, of dedication, a tradition of "Celtics pride." But aren't you afraid you might be getting in a rut? [Laughter]

We've seen that winning tradition carried forth again and again down through the years by some of the greatest heroes in basketball history: Cousey, Sharman, Ramsey, Russell, Sam and Casey Jones, Heinsohn, Havlicek, Cowens, and White. I may have mispronounced some of those names in there—I hope not.

Casey Jones was not only a great player; this year, he proved he's an equally great coach. He's one of only a few to have won a championship as both a player and a coach.

As the leaders of your organization changed, as one group of stars was replaced by another group, the Celtics not only survived; they maintained their championship form, because always, the Celtics have been a team of champions, larger and greater than any one player, coach, or manager. And in celebrating your championship, we see how America can be a nation of champions as well.

Red Auerbach, Coach Jones, members of this proud team—high in the rafters of Boston Garden hang 14 green and white banners proclaiming the Celtics the national champions of 14 seasons past, and sometime this summer, a 15th banner is going to be hoisted into place, as I said. That banner will belong to you, and it'll remind all who see it of the way each of you have lived up to the tradition of the Boston Celtics.

So, I thank you, and congratulations, and God bless all of you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:43 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Meeting the Boston Celtics, the National Basketball Association World Champions Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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