Oprah Winfrey bumps NBA playoffs, welcomes Maria Shriver to United Center

Oprah Winfrey, Maria Shriver, Tom Hanks, Beyonce, and Michael Jordan were part of a star-studded cast at the Tuesday taping of two of the last Oprah Winfrey shows in Chicago's United Center.

By , Staff

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    Maria Shriver appears with Oprah Winfrey during a star-studded double-taping of "Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular," Tuesday, May 17, 2011, in Chicago..
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This week, Chicago inaugurated a new mayor (Rahm Emanuel), the Chicago Bulls opened the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs against the Miami Heat, and Oprah Winfrey demonstrated who has the real muscle in the Windy City.

Tuesday night The Oprah Winfrey Show taped two shows in the United Center, as part of the lead up to next week's finale of the program after 25 years on the air.

But there was a bit of a scheduling conflict. The Chicago Bulls were supposed to also be playing in the United Center Monday night (when Oprah's crew was setting up for the Tuesday tapping). NBA vs. Oprah. Guess who moved their performance to Sunday night?

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Tuesday's show was billed as a "Surprise Oprah! A Farewall Spectacular" as some of the guests were not known to Oprah. Some 13,000 fans showed up along with Hollywood's A-list to honor the Queen of Daytime TV.

Tom Hanks was the MC, for the first half of the evening. Actor Will Smith took over for the second half.

In between, Beyonce, Aretha Franklin, Jamie Foxx. Halle Berry, Tom Cruise, Madonna, Rascal Flatts, Stevie Wonder, Diane Sawyer, and Queen Latifah (among others) sang – and spoke – in praise of Oprah's contributions.

Maria Shriver, just days from announcing her separation from former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was there too.

"For more than 30 years you have bestowed upon me the most amazing friendship. You have shown love, support, wisdom, and most of all, the truth …," Shriver told Winfrey, according to ABC-TV, pausing for a moment after she uttered the phrase "the truth."

But as much as Oprah's show was about celebrities, it was also about recognizing the courage of ordinary people around the world. Included in the tributes were words from a female talk-show host from Afghanistan, an abused teenage girl who said Winfrey gave her the strength to know the abuse was not her fault; "Debbie from Illinois" inspired to foster-mother 29 kids, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Oprah appeared most touched by recognition of her contributions to education (Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa) and literacy (Oprah Book Club).

Poet Maya Angelou recited an original piece, a narrative of Oprah's life. Angelou said this "big-eyed fat girl from Mississippi decided to show the world how to look at itself… how to change itself ... ."

The two shows taped Tuesday will air May 23 and 24. The final episode will air May 25.

And the Chicago Bulls? They will get the United Center back Wednesday night for the next game of the NBA playoffs.

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