Jerry Reinsdorf's teams have won championships, created legends in their respective sports and changed the landscape of their respective leagues. Wednesday night in New York, Reinsdorf was recognized for helping create all that.
Reinsdorf was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.
Reinsdorf's family was there to enjoy the award with him, and notable NBA figures such as commissioner David Stern and Bulls VP of basketball operations John Paxson were in attendance as well.
"I never imagined that I would own teams and meet people like Tony LaRussa, Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Frank Thomas, Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Charley Lau, a true genius who belongs in the Hall of Fame. I certainly never imagined that I would meet those people, and I certainly never imagined that instead of asking them for their autographs, I would give them my autograph on their checks."
The 77-year-old Reinsdorf has been a fixture in the sports business world for 32 years after he purchased the Chicago White Sox in 1981 and the Chicago Bulls in 1985. During that time the White Sox have won five division titles and the 2005 World Series, while the Bulls--behind Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen--won six NBA Championships in the 90s.
"Those of us on team sports are very lucky," he said. "Very, very lucky. Not only because we don't have real jobs, but because we're able to bring joy to so many people and because we can make the world a better place."
Reinsdorf also mentioned in his speech that of all the Bulls teams he has seen over the years, his favorite was the group that just finished their season last week against the Heat. Facing daunting obstacles against the prohibitive favorite Miami Heat, the Bulls played their hearts out despite being overmanned and out-talented.
"They proved that heart and grit and determination can win, and we almost beat a team that was vastly superior in talent," he said, "and I think our fans are just as proud of that team as they were of the championship teams."
Reinsdorf also said the peak of his ownership was the White Sox' World Series championship, when it affected the town so profoundly after 88 years without one.
[PHOTO GALLERY: Reinsdorf honored in New York for his work]
Perhaps more important than the successes his teams have seen, Reinsdorf has also advanced his team's respective leagues off the field and court, too. He was a significant figure in the MLB's advancement of minority representation, helping to create the annual Diversity Business Summit and the MLB Civil Rights Game, as well as serving as the co-chair of the MLB's equal opportunity committee. During his tenure with the White Sox, Reinsdorf has hired minorities Jerry Manuel and Ozzie Guillen as managers and Kenny Williams as general manager, the third African-American to hold that position in the league's history.
“Jerry has had a profound impact on sports,” Richard Weiss, publisher of the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, said in a press release. “Along with his extremely successful franchise ownership in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, and his leadership at the highest levels within baseball, Jerry has also made deep and lasting community service contributions.”
Previous winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award have included former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue in 2012, tennis great Billie Jean King in 2011 and sports business executive Peter Ueberroth in 2009.