The “D.C. trip” referred to in the statement would be the team’s April 28 game at the Washington Wizards. But that window is narrow, with the Lakers playing in Orlando on April 26 and back in Los Angeles for a game against Sacramento on April 30, and it is complicated by coronavirus protocols at the White House and in the NBA.
The playoffs are scheduled to run from May 22 to July 22, meaning a new champion, barring a Lakers repeat, would be in place by midsummer.
James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were the most recent NBA champions to visit the White House in November 2016, when President Barack Obama entertained them on the same day that he met with the newly elected Donald Trump.
The first team to win an NBA title after Trump took office was the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors, but after star guard Stephen Curry said the team had no interest in visiting a president with whom it had major differences, Trump declared an expected invitation to be “withdrawn.” When the Warriors arrived in Washington to play the Wizards in March 2018, they instead toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture with a group of local schoolchildren. After repeating as champions at the end of the 2017-18 season, the Warriors used their annual trip to D.C. to visit Obama’s private office.
For the Toronto Raptors, who beat the Warriors in the 2019 Finals, a White House visit was “a hard no,” Danny Green, then with team, said. It’s unclear whether an official invitation was extended to the Raptors.
In January, Yahoo Sports reported that Lakers players and team management “see it as a pleasure and an honor to have their accomplishment recognized by the incoming president.” That followed a tweet in which James suggested he would be receptive to a visit, telling Draymond Green of the Warriors on Twitter, “YO we back up in there my G! I’m taking my tequila and vino too!” James campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and called Trump a “bum” the following year, then endorsed the Biden-Harris ticket just before Election Day last year.
Teams from other pro leagues and at the college level had a mixed record of attendance during Trump’s term. The New England Patriots, who won the Super Bowl in 2017 and 2019 and have prominent members with friendly ties to the president — including then-quarterback Tom Brady, Coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft — made the trips but both times had several players announce they would not participate. Trump disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, citing a disagreement over the issue of player protests during the national anthem, but the decision came after the team appeared set to visit without many players.
Some members of the Kansas City Chiefs, who won the Super Bowl just as the pandemic was taking root in February 2020, expressed excitement for a White House visit. With pandemic protocols in place, baseball’s champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have yet to visit. Nor have the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brady’s new team.
President Biden has said he would like to resume the tradition of receiving champion sports teams, adding that only the pandemic stands in the way. White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that in February, adding that the Lakers and Buccaneers would receive invitations “when it’s covid safe.”
Because of the pandemic, the Lakers have not celebrated the franchise’s 17th championship with a parade. They also will not unveil their championship banner until May 12, before the final home game of the regular season, with a limited number of fans only now being allowed to attend games at Staples Center.