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Remarks to the 1996 National Basketball Association Champion Chicago Bulls

April 03, 1997

The President. Good morning. Please be seated. Just think of me as another injured basketball player. [Laughter]

Congressman Rush; Congressman Jackson; Mr. Cedric Dempsey, the executive director of the NCAA; Richard Lapchick, who is with the Center for Sport in Society; to the young athletes who are here with us today, who have been recognized for their academic achievements and their personal heroism as well as their achievements in athletics. We're all delighted to be here with our Secretary of Commerce, Bill Daley, and half the city of Chicago has come. [Laughter] Will everybody from Chicago please raise your hand, be recognized, stand up. [Applause] That's good.

As all of you know, the First Lady is from Chicago, and it's sort of become my adopted big city. And around here, we like it when the Bulls are doing well, which means that no matter what's in the newspaper in Washington every day, I can nearly always find some reason to be happy. [Laughter] And believe me, some days we need it more than others.

On behalf of all of us here and people around the Nation, I want to congratulate Jerry Reinsdorf, Phil Jackson, and the entire team on winning the 1996 championship and on winning four of the last six championships.

The '96 championship was the first one captured at the United Center, and I had that in mind when we picked it for the site of the Democratic National Convention last summer. We wanted the home court advantage. I think we got it.

Last year, the Bulls had a record of 72 and 10. And I checked this morning; I think it's 63 and 9 now. I'd say that's pretty good. The individual Bulls stars are well-known to America, all of them, but I'd like to point out that this is a team that plays great defense as well as great offense and a team with a great sense of teamwork, a team that plays together and works together and tries to win together. It seems to me that that's something that we'd all do well to remember. That's one of the things I like about the city of Chicago. Whenever I go there, I think that it's a city that tends to work because it works together with coherent teams of people and neighborhoods and all walks of life.

So let me say again, the Chicago Bulls have given America a lot of thrills. They've given Chicago a lot of pride. They've produced perhaps the greatest basketball dynasty ever and perhaps the greatest basketball individual feats ever. But more than anything else, they've given us the sense that when people do things together, a lot more is possible.

Now, I'd like to introduce now Jerry Reinsdorf so we can go on with the rest of the program. And meanwhile, I want you to know that in 6 months I'll be as good as new and available for the next draft. [Laughter]

Thank you.

[At this point, team owner Jerry Reinsdorf made brief remarks and presented the President with a championship watch and Bulls jacket.]

The President. Think I'll be safe in this in Washington? [Laughter] Thank you.

[Mr. Reinsdorf then introduced coach Phil Jackson and cocaptains Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.]

The President. Look at those shoes.

[Mr. Jackson made brief remarks and presented a Bulls jersey to the President.]

The President. Do I have your permission? [Laughter]

Thank you.

Mr. Jackson. Thank you.

The President. You guys aren't going to speak? You got to say something. Come here, Scottie, say something. [Laughter] Everybody from Arkansas talks. You have to. [Laughter]

[Mr. Pippen made brief remarks.]

The President. Thank you.

[Mr. Jordan made brief remarks.]

The President. I want to thank again all the people from Chicago for coming. I want to say how proud—I can't help but say that all the people that I know, and I know half the town from the little community in southeast Arkansas where Scottie Pippen grew up, are still wildly proud of him. So it's okay for somebody outside Chicago to like that.

And I want to say to Michael Jordan, I like your two-tone shoes. [Laughter] When I was growing up, all well-bred young Southern boys learned to wear two-tone shoes in the springtime—[laughter]—and I'm glad you kept up the tradition.

And finally, I'd like to thank the Bulls for being so good to Hillary when she visited them at the United Center recently. And that night, she got Dennis Rodman's jersey. It is now freshly washed and hanging in the White House in a place of honor.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:02 a.m. at the South Portico at the White House.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to the 1996 National Basketball Association Champion Chicago Bulls Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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