Two legendary Los Angeles sports figures were among 21 people presented Tuesday with the nation's highest civilian honor.
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully and former UCLA Bruin and Los Angeles Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Tuesday in a star-studded White House ceremony conducted by President Barack Obama.
"These 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way," Obama said Tuesday.
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Scully bid farewell to the Dodgers broadcast booth this season after 67 years. He called some of the most memorable moments in the sport's history, such as Kirk Gibson's storybook home run in the 1988 World Series and Hank Aaron's record 715th home run in 1974.
"The game of baseball has a handful of signature sounds," Obama said. "The crack of the bat. You've got the crowd singing in the seventh inning stretch. And, you've got the voice of Vin Scully.
"Since Jackie Robinson started at second base, Vin taught us the game and introduced us to the players."
Scully didn't need a history making moment to shine. His off-the-cuff anecdotes, often peppered between pitches during an at-bat, endeared him to generations of baseball fans.
"Generations of Dodgers fans brought their radios into the stands because you didn't want to miss one of Vin's stories," Obama said.
He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998.
Pictures posted Tuesday to the Hall of Fame announcer's Instagram account show him grinning ear-to-ear during the White House visit.
Abdul-Jabbar finished his career as the NBA's all-time leading scorer. He has six league MVP awards and five NBA titles with the Lakers. He was part of the dominant John Wooden-coached UCLA teams of the late 1960s and 1970s and led the Bruins to three consecutive titles.
"When a sport changes its rules to make it harder just for you, you are really good," said Obama. "Despite the rule change, he was still the sport's most unstoppable force."
Obama was referring to the "Alcindor Rule" of the late 1960s and 1970s, which banned dunking in college basketball games.
Abdul-Jabbar also has been a long-time advocate for social justice.
"The reason we honor Kareem is more than just for a pair of goggles and his skyhook," said Obama. "He stood up for his Muslim faith when it wasn't easy and it wasn't popular."
[NATL] 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients
President Barack Obama also honored actors Robert DeNiro, Cicely Tyson, Tom Hanks and Robert Redford, hoops superstar Michael Jordan and entertainers Ellen DeGeneres, Diana Ross and Bruce Springsteen. Other honorees are philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, polymath physicist Richard Garwin, architect Frank Gehry, designer Maya Lin, "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels, attorney Newt Minow, mathematician and computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton, and Eduardo Padrón, president of Miami Dade College in Florida.
The event became an adventure for DeGeneres, who said she was temporarily restricted from entering the White House after failing to bring a photo ID. DeGeneres eventually made it into the ceremony, posing in a Mannequin Challenge video with other recipients.
Posthumous honors went to Native American advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Adm. Grace Hopper.