As part of the Chicago Bulls’ Ring of Honor festivities this week, the franchise enlisted some heavy-hitters to write essays on the inductees. And it doesn’t get much bigger than President Barack Obama penning a tribute to Michael Jordan.
Obama’s essay is displayed in the Ring of Honor exhibit in the United Center atrium, which is open to the general public for free during specified vising hours and fans with tickets to Bulls games on Jan. 10 and Jan. 12.
“Michael helped put American sports – and the African-American athlete – at the center of entertainment, fashion and popular culture, altering not only our nation’s commerce but also the way the rest of the world saw America,” Obama wrote.
The atrium features never-before-seen memorabilia from all 13 members of the inaugural class and the 1995-96 team that won a then-record 72 games.
Here is Obama’s tribute to Jordan in full:
When Michael Jordan arrived in Chicago in 1984, a skinny kid with a full head of hair and a winning smile, everyone knew he was going to be good. After all, here was a player who, as a freshman, had hit the game-winning shot to propel the North Carolina Tar Heels over the Georgetown Hoyas in a national championship game, and had gone on to be a two-time first team All-American, an Olympic Gold Medal winner, and a national player of the year.
What people didn’t realize at the time – what maybe even Michael didn’t realize at the time – was that the same young man would become the greatest player the game had ever seen, a transcendent athlete who would fundamentally change the face of sports, commerce and American culture.
Of course, Michael’s on-court exploits are legendary. Six NBA championships, along with six Finals MVPs. Five regular season MVPs. Ten scoring titles and the highest playoff scoring average in history. Ten first team All-NBA selections. Nine All-Defensive first team selections – including a Defensive Player of the Year. No other player before or since has possessed Michael’s combination of dazzling athleticism and flawless fundamentals; such a tireless work ethic and an unmatched competitive fire. Not only did he win with ruthless efficiency, but his performances displayed a grace and imagination that made the Chicago Bulls the greatest show in sports.
And it wasn’t just excellence on the court that made Michael Jordan a singular figure. Through his revolutionary endorsement deals, his iconic ads and even a starring role in a box-office hit movie, Michael helped put American sports – and the African-American athlete – at the center of entertainment, fashion and popular culture, altering not only our nation’s commerce but also the way the rest of the world saw America.
There are only a handful of athletes in history – Ruth, Robinson, Ali – that can claim a comparable impact. Michael Jordan shares that rare air. Not bad for a kid from Wilmington, North Carolina who had once been cut by his high school varsity team.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote the essay honoring the 1995-96 team. Magic Johnson and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder did the same for Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, respectively.
For more information on the Bulls Ring of Honor, visit the official website here.