by ABBY LIVINGSTON
WASHINGTON, D.C. — For a Chicago Bulls fan, President Obama had high praise Monday as he honored the San Antonio Spurs for their 2014 NBA World Championship.
“It’s never easy celebrating a non-Bulls team,” he joked at the traditional White House ceremony for winners of major sport championships. “That’s all I’ve been able to do. So far. But even I have to admit, the Spurs are hard to dislike.”
San Antonio, which defeated the Miami Heat in a five-game championship series in June, was in town to face off against the Washington Wizards on Monday evening.
Tim Duncan, Coach Gregg Popovich, General Manager R.C. Buford and the rest of the team entered the White House East Room to cheers of “Go Spurs Go” from a crowd including a number of high-profile Texans.
“I know we got a lot of Spurs fans in the house, including a guy I stole from San Antonio, our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former Mayor Julián Castro,” the president said.
Castro’s twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, also attended, along with a giddy contingent from the Texas delegation. Joaquin Castro and Reps. Joe Barton, R-Ennis; Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville; Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo; Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Al Green, D-Houston; Will Hurd, R-San Antonio; Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; and Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, sat together for the event.
Barton posed for a photo in front of the championship trophy before the celebration began.
The president complimented the team on several fronts – for its charitable work, style of play and its international makeup. He went so far as to call the Spurs the “U.N. of basketball teams.”
He also praised the team for a recent hire.
“I want to commend the Spurs as well for something they did after the championship, hiring Becky Hammon, who’s the first female full-time assistant coach in the NBA,” he said. “As somebody who has got two daughters, one of who is a baller, it makes me feel good when excellence is recognized regardless of gender. “
The team presented the president with a Spurs jersey that said “POTUS” and had the number 1.
Obama, who is about to enter the second half of his second term, threw in one last joke at the world champions.
“I’ll tell you what, if you guys need any tips on winning back-to-back, you know where to find me.”
ABBY LIVINGSTON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.
COVER: President Barack Obama greets 2014 NBA Championship San Antonio Spurs players, coaches and leadership in the Blue Room prior to an event in the East Room on Jan. 12. PHOTO by PETE SOUZA/THE WHITE HOUSEEmail | Print