WASHINGTON: Basketball-loving President Barack Obama joined LeBron James and the Miami Heat in putting on a gushing show of mutual admiration yesterday as the reigning NBA champions were lauded at the White House.
Obama, a fervent pick-up player and coach of his daughters’ teams, praised the Heat as part of the US president’s ceremonial duty of honoring top professional and collegiate sports teams.
“I know this is the first trip for some of these players, but a few of them were here a couple of years ago for a pickup game on my birthday,” Obama said.
“Now, I’m not trying to take all the credit ... but I think that it’s clear that going up against me prepared them ... it sharpened their skills. It gave them the competitive edge that they needed.
“Part of the reason they came back today is they want another shot at the old guy.”
Obama was surrounded by players such as Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller, Shane Battier and James, the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 career points, as he praised the Heat for burying egos in their 2012 championship run.
James grabbed the microphone at the end of the event and, for all his wealth and success, seemed to be pinching himself to be at the White House.
“We just want to thank you ... for allowing us to be, I mean, in the White House. I mean, we’re in the White House,” he said.
“We’re kids from Chicago and Dallas, Texas and Michigan and Ohio and South Dakota, Miami and we’re in the White House right now. This is like, ‘Hey, Mama, I made it.’”
The Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals last June, giving the player nicknamed “King James” his first NBA crown. AFP