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President Obama and Michael Jordan honor Johnny Kerr
by Sam Smith
Posted on Feb 10
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President Barack Obama and Michael Jordan.
Now that’s what I call a halftime ceremony.
Try topping that.
It likely was the best one of these anyone ever has put on around the NBA, so it was perhaps appropriate it was for legendary Bulls broadcaster and NBA player, coach and goodwill ambassador Johnny Kerr.
Kerr was honored with an award from the Basketball Hall of Fame and a bronze statue that will be displayed permanently in the United Center.
Here’s what the speakers had to say and it wrapped up with Kerr.
President Barack Obama in a taped message from the White House:
“Hey Chicago. Like millions of others I feel like I know Johnny. I’ve spent so much time hearing him cheer and groan with the ups and downs of being a Bulls fan. The truth is, he’s not just the center with a deadly hook shot who took to the Final Four, or the Iron Man who played 800 consecutive games, or the coach who took the Bulls to the playoffs in their inaugural season. Or the announcer who called every play of those championship runs.He’s the fan. He’ s got the same passion for the game as any fan that he had six decades ago as a player at Tilden Tech. Like us, he hung on for every play of those seasons we came so close. Like us, he almost fell out of his seat celebrating those seasons when we won it all. Like us he will never lose faith in the Chicago Bulls. Thank you Johnny, we love you and we’re grateful to you.”
First of all let me say I’m very happy to be back. Johnny Red you meant a
lot to me. There’s been many days where we had those sad bus rides, a
little drink here, a little cigar there. A great conversation, a great
story. You made my career what it is. One constant thing about the Chicago
Bulls has been Johnny Red Kerr. I wanna thank the Bulls organization for
inviting me back and I wanna thank you Johnny Kerr for being an
inspiration to me as a basketball player and as a person. Thank you, it’s
always great to see you.
Tonight is not about me. It’s about one of the greatest announcers in the
history of the NBA. Johnny Red Kerr thrilled us in so many years, even
before my time. This guy right here made Chicago Bulls basketball what it
is. I wantrto thank him for all the memories we shared on the plane rides,
the championships, the 82 game seasons. Thank you for mentoring me from
the sidelines. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life. This
is a great night for you, thank you.
Johnny Kerr was one of the great centers of the NBA. During Johnny’s
career the number one center was Bill Russell. The number three center was
Wilt Chamberlain. The number three center was Johnny Kerr. You really
should’ve seen Johnny play. He was the finest high post center in the
history of the game. He could shoot it, he could pass it, he could rebound
with the best of them and he set the greatest pick in the world. The
Syracuse Nationals for nine years made the playoffs nine consecutive
years. Also, they won a world championship. Against Russell’s Celtics and
Wilt’s Warriors the Syracuse Nationals beat them 63 times and Johnny Kerr played in 40 minutes a game, never missed a game, and he played Russell
and Chamberlain as good as anybody ever did. David Stern had a slogan for
the NBA was “I love this game!” and in Johnny Kerry’s career, nobody loved the game more than he did. He’s my best friend and I love you John and you’ve been a friend to basketball and probably the greatest salesman. God bless you and God bless your family.
NBA Commissioner David Stern in a taped message
Johnny you’ve done it all in the NBA. You’ve played for those record
number of games, you had a great career as player as a coach as a
broadcaster, but one thing was always the same: your love and respect for
the game and the respect the game has for you. Thank you for all you’ve
done for us and I can’t wait to see the statue.
Jerry Colangelo representing the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Johnny this is a great night for you. I think you’re hearing from all the
people here how much they love you. I wanna join in giving you my love.
I’m also here to represent the Basketball Hall of Fame tonight and that
there’s an award called the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. It
has gone to John Wooden, Ray Meyer, Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy to name a few.John this is in tribute to your more than 50 years of being in the NBA asa player, as a coach, as an administrator, as a broadcaster. What you didduring all those years was show a passion for a game. You loved this game,
and I think the game loved you back. To Johnny Kerr!”
“All those years when Johnny and I worked together many times we had to goout and do public speaking and when we’d show up sometimes fans would look at us and say, “How do they make you look the same size on tv?” and Johnny would say, “It’s easy, JD sits on my lap!” And I’ll bet when he’s talking you’ll never see my lips move. Johnny’s the guy who introduced me to NBA history. Johnny, Dolph: they played for an owner in Syracuse who was the father of the 24 second clock. Johnny Kerr was in the game when Havlicek stole the ball. We share the mic when Jordan hit the shot over Ehlo. I’ll tell you what, you’re the only guy who saw those two things close up. I’m going to speak for everybody here when I say, we love you Red Man.”
“Johnny, it’s a privilege to be here tonight. All of us in the Bulls
organization who got to know you over the years: we love you and we miss
having you around. For the first time tonight, join the Bulls in seeing
this bust of you that will permanently be displayed in the United Center.”
Matt Kerr, one of Johnny’s sons.
“I’m not usually the one who holds the microphone in the Kerr family, but I
wanted to share some thoughts my dad shared with me. He told me that when he looks at all the people who have been honored in the United Center, he’s honored to be amongst them. He’s often joked with his friends that he remembers James Naismith saying, “Hey Red, could you hand me a nail?” It’s hard to believe that so many of the successes in his life. It was a thrill for him to play high school ball at Tilden in Chicago, 4 years at U of I, and 12 years in the NBA. But it was something special for him when he came back to the city he loved to be the first coach of the Chicago Bulls
basketball team. Having seen them win six world championships, he always
felt he had the greatest job in the world. He said he was as proud of
being a part of this wonderful Bulls family now as he was when they played
in the international amphitheater surrounded by his greatest friends in the world. He’d like to also thank you, Bulls fans for all your support over the
Johnny “Red” Kerr
“He never did listen (to Matt not handing Johnny his notes). I wanna thank everybody here in the audience who Ifeel that sometime in their life has seen the Bulls play. Not because of
Red Kerr, but because of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the rest of
the Bulls. It’s been a great tribute to see these people out here today
putting an award on me that makes it the happiest day of my life if I
could steal a quote from another old Giant player. I’d like to thank Jerry
Reinsdorf. I was not with the team when he took over or vice versa. I was
with the team at various different times but through his career he has
treated me like a genuine genuine person who I knew since I was a child. I
love him. Jerry Colangelo, a great great man and I turn around here to be
shocked that I am going to be a part of the dreaded pesky Hall of Fame for
many many years. Steve Schanwald, John Paxson, Irwin Mandel these are the people I remember and think of very very much. But most of all, I’ll miss this hardwood floor at the United Center. I thank you so much.”