Ernie Banks, Dean Smith honored

Updated: August 8, 2013, 3:26 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

President Barack Obama announced Thursday that Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Dean Smith are among those who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. According to the White House, this award is given to individuals "who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

"This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world," Obama said. "It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation's gratitude."

The White House will announce a time and date when the medals will be awarded in Washington.

Banks, 82, is widely known as "Mr. Cub" and recognized as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He played in 11 All-Star Games, hit more than 500 home runs and was the first National League player to win back-to-back MVP honors. He was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, his first year eligible.

Smith, 82, guided North Carolina basketball from 1961-97, winning two national championships. When he retired, he was the winningest coach in college basketball history. Smith is credited with 96 percent of his players graduating. He was also an advocate for civil rights in the 1960s.

Smith has been battling a progressive memory disorder recently.

Last year, Obama honored former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, also a Hall of Famer, with the award.

Past sports recipients of the award include Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Earl Blaik, Paul Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Billie Jean King, Robert J.H. Kiphuth, Stan Musial, Jack Nicklaus, Buck O'Neil, Jesse Owens, Arnold Palmer, Richard Petty, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, Ted Williams and John Wooden.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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