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National Archives

Public Papers - 1989 - June

Remarks Congratulating the Detroit Pistons on Winning the National Basketball Association Championship


Well, I see we have the two Senators from Michigan and much of the congressional delegation here, and we want to welcome Senator Levin and Senator Riegle, Congressmen Schuette, Broomfield, and etcetera, etcetera. And I'm just delighted you all are here. Commissioner Stern, welcome, sir. And then I want to welcome the unsung heroes, the heroines, of the Detroit Pistons, the players' wives; and owner Bill Davidson; and then the -- I think they all got in in spite of the weather -- D.C. Police Boys and Girls Club. Welcome! Who is with that? Right around here? You guys right here. Great. Right there? That guy? Okay. That's wonderful.

And you may have noticed my special greeting from Bill Laimbeer. He and his wife Chris were with him in October, and he told me back in October that he'd see me at the White House in June. Actually, he was sure he'd be here, not so sure about me. [Laughter] But sure enough, there they are.

And to all our guests today, I'm just delighted that you've joined me to congratulate the world champions of basketball, the Detroit Pistons.

You guys won it in style -- four straight, four straight over the [Los Angeles] Lakers. And I know you had a special incentive to make it a sweep. Just think of Chuck Daly's dry cleaning bill for a seven game series. [Laughter] You know, Chuck's known as the Dick Clark of the NBA, 59 going on 29 -- [laughter] -- but don't let those youthful looks fool you. He's waited 35 years for this day, for a coach's dream come true.

And he's got a team loaded with talent and determination. No team goes a full 82 games and into the playoffs without a few injuries along the way, and the Pistons were no exception. The difference is that somehow the Pistons managed to keep all the parts in working order. Isaiah Thomas played hurt -- played hard -- with a broken hand for the past 2 months. And credit a couple of championship-sized assists to your trainer and team physician, Mike Abdenour and Dr. Benjamin Paolucci.

And someone once said basketball is ballet with a backboard. Whoever it was definitely wasn't under the boards with Laimbeer and Mahorn when a shot goes up there. I would not liken that to Swan Lake -- [laughter] -- but your brand of bump-and-run basketball is a winner.

And I know that your aggressive style has given the Pistons something of a reputation. But Commissioner Stern told us also something else about the work that you do in the Detroit community with the Special Olympics, muscular dystrophy -- many other worthy causes. And you may be to some the bad boys of basketball, but off the court, people see the kinder, gentler side of the Detroit Pistons. [Laughter]

And now, you can have all the talent in the world, but you can't win it all unless you've got that one special ingredient -- nicknames. And the Pistons have some league leaders: the Microwave, Vinnie Johnson -- he heats up in a hurry -- [laughter] -- the Spider and Worm, John Salley and Dennis Rodman, a couple of superheroes off the bench. And then there's the guy without the nickname, the most valuable player, Joe Dumars, the pride of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Here's a man who keeps quiet and lets the scoring do the talking. Take game three: 21 points in 12 minutes -- sounds more like pinball than basketball. [Laughter]

But all of you have accomplished the extraordinary. And some of the best players in the NBA go an entire career without winning that ring. And it takes a team to win -- talent, drive, and dedication that goes 12 men deep. And that's the secret of success of any kind, and it's the winning formula. You kids watch and learn from all of that -- the winning formula that made the Detroit Pistons the world champs.

Thank you for visiting us. I'm glad you are now out of low orbit around the airfield out here. And once again, congratulations to all of you, to the city of Detroit, and to the State of Michigan. I am delighted that you are here at the White House. Thank you very much for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 11:50 a.m. in Room 450 at the Old Executive Office Building.

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