The Cleveland Cavaliers stopped by the White House on Thursday, making a triumphant appearance that is the capstone to their NBA championship.
“That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about hope and change,” President Barack Obama joked from the South Lawn about the Cavaliers’ come-from-behind win against the Golden State Warriors last season.
Obama talked for about 10 minutes about the team, who he lauded not just for their skill but their contributions to the community.
“Through it all Cleveland was always Believeland and that’s why the Cavs have always given back to their fans,” he said, giving a special shout out to LeBron James and his LeBron James Family Foundation for paying college tuition for more than 1,000 kids from Akron.
While James got plenty of attention in the speech, Obama didn’t forget about the rest of the team. He named every single member and complimented them on their contributions to the championship season.
Swingman Iman Shumpert got an additional shout out for having delivered his baby at home in a bathtub and using a pair of headphones to cut the umbilical cord.
“That was an all-star move,” Obama said.
Coach Tyronn Lue and team owner Dan Gilbert also got a nod, but by far the funniest jokes were directed at J.R. Smith, who spent much of the week following the Cavs’ championship shirtless.
“I want to give a special thanks to J.R. Smith’s shirt for showing up,” Obama said. “I’m glad you came. You’re a very nice shirt.”
The ceremony ended with the exchange of a different garment. Kevin Love approached the podium to give Obama a personalized Cavaliers jersey featuring the No. 16. Obama graciously accepted the gift, but joked about its sleeves.
“These sleeves get tight, can I rip ’em?” Obama said, referencing James pulling off his sleeves last season.
“I’ll show you exactly how I do it,” James joked back.
The scene was light given the seriousness of the other guest Obama welcomed to the White House earlier in the day. President-elect Donald Trump and Obama met in the Oval Office for the first time to begin the transition that will end when Trump is sworn into office on Jan. 20.
Trump had left the White House before the Cavs arrived, likely avoiding what could have been an awkward moment.
Late Wednesday, a Snapchat comment by Richard Jefferson intimated that players are considering whether the arrival of Trump in January may lead to at least a temporary cessation of championship NBA teams visiting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
NBA players, including the Warriors’ David West and the Cavs’ J.R. Smith, have questioned what the election of Trump means after a campaign that often featured racist and misogynist overtones. Now, there’s a real question over whether athletes will feel comfortable returning.
But that’s a matter for another day. For now, the Cavs were in the house, and they briefly took over the White House’s Snapchat.
Teyana Taylor, Iman Shumpert’s wife, found the portrait of Hillary Clinton to be the perfect spot for a photo.