Before taking on the Washington Wizards in the nation's capital on Wednesday, the Miami Heat made their second straight January visit to the White House on Tuesday afternoon, meeting with President Barack Obama in celebration of the 2012-13 NBA finals victory that made the team two-time NBA champions.
During a brief ceremony in the East Room, Obama — who, as you might have heard, is a pretty big basketball fan — congratulated Miami's players, coaches and staff for winning consecutive NBA championships. He also lauded the Heat's work off the court and in the community, from raising nearly $2 million for local charities last year to taking an active part in the NBA FIT campaign and reaching out to wounded soldiers, both in D.C. (before the White House visit, visiting Walter Reed National Military Medical Center) and in Florida (through the Heat Home Strong initiative).
"So, bottom line is: outstanding athletes, outstanding organization, outstanding team, but also outstanding members of their community," the president said.
As a token of their appreciation for the invitation to the White House, the Heat presented Obama with an autographed basketball, as well as a Heat jersey with "POTUS" on the back, in keeping with the Heat's recent nickname-jersey-wearing in an double-overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets last Friday. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra also gave the president a replica of the Larry O'Brien Trophy — a motivational tool to which the coach has turned before each of the team's title runs to serve as "a covenant between all of us" — signed by each member of the team, bearing a mark for each victory the team achieved on the way to the championship, and featuring the president's name along with the names of all the players involved.
Even a die-hard Chicago Bulls fan had to be pretty taken with a gift like that.
"You know, you guys are winning me over a little bit," Obama said.
"We promise we'll put together another one for you and let you mark it this year," Spoelstra replied.
While the celebration and gift-giving were lovely enough, the true highlight of the visit was Obama's late-night-style monologue about the two-time-defending champs. Check out the video, and some of the president's best zings, below.
• "Usually people enjoy coming to the White House, but I have to say, I've never seen folks more excited than the Heat when they came last year. I mean, LeBron was so pumped up, I thought he was going to give me a hug and knock me over."
• "We've got some outstanding members of Congress who are big fans of the Heat. They're from both parties. Because we all know nothing brings people together like the Miami Heat. Across the NBA, there's just a ... unifying sense about the Heat."
• "This group has won twice, but it's gone to the finals three times, and sometimes it feels like they're still fighting for a little respect. I can relate to that."
• “Last season, the Heat put together one of the most dominating regular seasons ever by a defending champion. They won a team-record 66 games. At one point, they won 27 games straight, the second-longest streak ever. Extraordinarily impressive ... almost as impressive as the Bulls’ 72-win season. [beat] Riley and I were reminiscing about those Knicks years.”
• On the dramatic close to the fourth quarter of Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs: "And then, they brought out the ropes. And then, Ray Allen saw them bring out the ropes. With five seconds left, Chris Bosh gets an incredible offensive rebound, passes it out to Ray, he’s backing up, he has to jump forward, hits one of the most iconic shots of all time. Then, he added a few choice words about the ropes, which we cannot repeat here. Ray — I do want you to know, you know, when you say those things on the court, like, people can read your lips, right? You do understand that? OK. All right.”
• "Everybody on this team participated. And from Ray's big shot, to to the contributions of Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Birdman, Birdman's tattoos, Birdman's Mohawk ... [laughs] the Heat showed us the kind of heart and determination it takes to be a champion."
• "We're very proud to have them back. We wish them great luck for the rest of the season, unless they're playing the Bulls. And with that, I think we should take a picture, but we should make it quick, before one of these guys starts yelling at Mario. I mean, sometimes it's just a bad pass, guys. It's not Mario's fault. [to Chalmers] I got your back, man."
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