President (and Bulls fan) Barack Obama thanks the Cavs for beating the 73-win Warriors


Tyronn Lue wanted to make sure his Cleveland Cavaliers got to celebrate their 2016 NBA championship with the now-customary visit to the White House before President Barack Obama, America’s first black Commander-in-Chief, made way for his successor in January. That successor was at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when the Cavs arrived on Thursday, ahead of their Friday night meeting with the Washington Wizards — which might have set some of the Cavs’ teeth on edge just a tad — but it was Obama who received Lue, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith and company to celebrate their achievement:

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As he often has during these ceremonies, Obama maintained a loose and jovial tone throughout, peppering his commentary with jokes like his opening-remarks line about the oddity of having a team from Cleveland, of all places, on his lawn:

The 44th president of the United States moved swiftly and smoothly into a brief roast of Smith, whose shirtless escapades were the talk of Cleveland’s post-title celebration, but whom Obama insisted back in June needed to cover up if he was coming over:

“Last season, the Cavs were the favorites in the East all along, but the road was anything but stable,” Obama said. “And I’m not even talking about what happened on the court. There were rumors about who was getting along with who, and why somebody wasn’t in the picture, and LeBron’s tweeting, and … this was all big news. But somehow, Coach Lue comes in and everything starts getting a little smoother, and they hit their stride in the playoffs.”

Obama praised the Cavs for ransacking the East, opening the 2016 postseason with 10 straight wins before knocking off the Toronto Raptors to earn an NBA Finals rematch with the Golden State Warriors — the team that had beaten Cleveland in the championship round the year before and had just set a new regular-season record for most wins in a season by going 73-9.

“Obviously, what this all comes down to is a team that, for the first time in NBA history, comes back from being down 3-1 in the Finals,” Obama said. “The first team in history to dig themselves out of a hole like that.”

From there, Obama allowed his homer tendencies to shine through one more time.

“And, I should add, that by knocking off the Warriors, they cemented the 1996 Bulls as the greatest team of all time,” he quipped. “So, your president thanks you for that.”

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After recounting the fortitude the Cavs showed in their wins in Games 5 and 6, Obama highlighted the stellar effort they put forth in “an unbelievable two minutes” to close the Game 7 classic that gave Cleveland its first pro sports title in 52 years.

“There was The Block, what LeBron has said was the defining play of his career,” Obama said. “The Shot, by Kyrie, putting the Cavs up five. The Stop, by Kevin Love — boy, I mean, Kevin was moving! I hadn’t seen defense like that!

“But it wasn’t just those outstanding players, not then and not throughout the year,” he continued. “J.R. always seemed to hit those shots — you know, ‘No, no, don’t shoot that!’ and then it goes in, and ‘Man, that was a great shot!'”

Obama then shifted into more serious matters, highlighting his visitors’ work off the court as well as on it.

“These Cavs exemplify a growing generation of athletes that are using their platforms to speak out,” he said. “We’ve seen Kevin on combating sexual assault. LeBron on issues like gun violence and working with [First Lady] Michelle [Obama] to help more kids go to school, go to college. His foundation is doing something incredible: paying college tuition for 1,100 kids from Akron.

“Earlier today, the Cavs met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and my senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, to discuss steps they’re taking to help build understanding between law enforcement and the Cleveland community, part of a league-wide effort to build stronger communities all across the country, including holding open conversations so we can begin to bridge divides and defuse tensions, and see each other as one American family,” Obama added. “It’s really important work.”

After one last round of applause for the champs, Love stepped down from the riser to give the president a ceremonial Cavs jersey — the black short-sleeved numbers they wore during their Game 7 win in Oakland — with “OBAMA” and “16” stitched on the back. And, of course, NBA die-hard Obama had the appropriate joke for the moment:


Perhaps the most amazing moment of all, though: the utter shock on swingman Iman Shumpert’s face when White House staff moved the president’s podium out of the way for pictures:

The election of Donald Trump has led multiple NBA players and coaches to share displeasure at the results of the campaign. Some commentators have expressed a belief that players on future title teams will decline invitations to visit the Trump White House for personal and political reasons.

That remains to be seen, but it was clear Thursday that for the Cavaliers, the opportunity to meet with this particular president and first lady meant an awful lot:

What a honor to be alongside the First Lady!!!!

A photo posted by Tristan Thompson (@realtristan13) on Nov 10, 2016 at 12:29pm PST


A photo posted by Iman Shumpert (@imanshumpert) on Nov 10, 2016 at 12:17pm PST

What a day!

A photo posted by JR Smith (@teamswish) on Nov 10, 2016 at 12:22pm PST

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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