WASHINGTON, DC (FOX 11 / AP) - Vin Scully and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar are two icons in the history of Southern California sports.
And now both are getting the nation's highest civilian honor -- 'The Presidential Medal of Freedom.'
Scully was so humble when he got the call from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
Scully is considered one the greatest sports broadcasters of all-time. He just retired after 67 incredible years as the voice of the Dodgers.
Jabaar led UCLA to three national titles, the Lakers to five world titles and is the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
He remains an outspoken advocate for social justice.
In the film world, Obama honored Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford and Cicely Tyson.
Michael Jordan was also among the honorees. Obama noted how Jordan's name is synonymous with excellence.
"There is a reason you call somebody 'the Michael Jordan of,'" Obama said. "The Michael Jordan of neurosurgery, or the Michael Jordan of rabbis, or the Michael Jordan of outrigger canoeing. Everyone knows what you're talking about."
Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross were recognized for their music. Of "The Boss," he said Springsteen crafted "anthems of our America, the reality of who we are and the reverie of who we want to be."
Other honorees included philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates and comedian Ellen DeGeneres. Of DeGeneres, Obama said she has a way of making people laugh at something rather than someone, "except when I danced on her show." He said it's also easy to forget that she had risked her career nearly 20 years ago when she came out as gay.
"What an incredible burden that was to bear, to risk her career like that. People don't do that very often, and then to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders," Obama said.
The full list:
- Basketball legends Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Television host and actress Ellen DeGeneres
- Actors Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, and Tom Hanks
- Musicians Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross
- Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels
- Architect Frank Gehry
- Sportscaster Vin Scully
- Businesspeople and philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates
- Actress Cicely Tyson
- The late Native-American activist Elouise Cobell
- Miami Dade College president Eduardo Padrón
- Former FCC chairman Newt Minow
- Computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton
- The late Naval leader and computer scientist Grace Hopper
- Physicist Richard Garwin
- Designer/artist Maya Lin
The diverse group seemed to enjoy themselves at the White House, participating in a mannequin challenge before the ceremony, trying not to move as they were recorded on video.
Obama said the people receiving the medal helped push America forward and inspired millions around the world. The White House said the president and his staff spend time considering a variety of candidates for the award, but ultimately, it's the president's decision.
Posthumous honors went to Native American advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Adm. Grace Hopper.
Others receiving the award included:
— Richard Garwin, an inventor and polymath physicist who made pioneering contributions to the nation's defense.
— Frank Gehry, one of the world's leading architects.
— Margaret H. Hamilton, a mathematician and computer scientist.
— Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
— Lorne Michaels, producer of "Saturday Night Live"
— Newton Minow, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman devoted to numerous public and charitable causes.
— Eduardo Padron, president of Miami Dade College.