The Cleveland Cavaliers made a special visit on their trip to Washington, D.C. to play the Wizards on Friday night.
As has become customary for any major sports champion in the United States, the Cavaliers were honored by the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, with a ceremony at The White House for their historic NBA Championship run during the summer.
Here are seven takeaways from President Obama’s speech to the Cavaliers:
CLEVELAND IS HOPE AND CHANGE
During his run to The White House in 2008, President Obama talked about hope and change coming to Washington, D.C. after an eight-year run from George W. Bush in the highest office in the land, and to him, the Cavaliers represented change for Cleveland.
Despite being down, 2-0 and 3-1, in the best-of-seven series against the reigning league champion Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers fought their way to three straight wins, including a 93-89 championship-clinching win in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
It is the Cavaliers’ first-ever NBA Championship and the first major sports title for the city of Cleveland since the Browns took home the NFL Championship with an upset win over the Baltimore Colts in December of 1964.
“That’s right! I said World Champion and Cleveland in the same sentence,” Obama said. “That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about hope and change.”
J.R. SMITH SHIRT REFERENCE
Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith has been known for his shirtless celebrations since helping the team win the NBA Championship back in the summer.
After the Cavaliers clinched a Game 7 win over the Warriors, Smith went shirtless on the flight home from Oakland and throughout the Championship Parade and Rally through the streets of Cleveland. Even when supporting the Cleveland Indians during the World Series, Smith was shown on the scoreboard and took his shirt off to use it as a rally towel to pump up the crowd.
“I want to give a special thanks to J.R. Smith’s shirt for showing up,” Obama said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to make an appearance today. I’m glad you came. You’re a very nice shirt.”
THANKS FROM BULLS FAN
Obama is a lifelong basketball fan who proudly talks about his Chicago roots and love for the Bulls, who won six titles during the 1990s.
By beating the Warriors, the Cavaliers became the first team to ever overcome a 3-1 series deficit in the NBA Finals and win the championship. And in doing so, they denied the Warriors, who won 73 regular-season games, their second straight championship.
“Somehow, Coach Lue comes in and everything starts getting a little smoother and they hit their stride in the playoffs,” Obama said. “They start by winning their first 10 games in the playoffs. They set record after record for three-point shooting, but obviously, what this comes down to is a team for the first time in NBA history, comes back from down 3-1 in The Finals. The first team in history to dig themselves out of a hole like that.
“I should add that by knocking off the Warriors, they cemented the 1996 Bulls as the greatest team of all time, so your President thanks you for that.”
PRAISE FOR LEBRON
LeBron James was named the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals after leading the Cavaliers to their first-ever league championship, which was the third such honor of his career.
Despite making only nine of his 24 attempts from the field and just one of his five three-point shots in the close-out win, James scored a team-high 27 points, and finished off a triple-double with 11 total rebounds and 11 assists to go along with three blocked shots and two steals.
In the best-of-seven series, James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists, to go along with 2.3 blocks and 2.6 steals over 42 minutes per game. James converted 49.4 percent of his attempts from the field and 37.1 percent of his three-point attempts.
“When you see LeBron James, it is not just his power and his speed, his vertical,” Obama said. “It is his unselfishness. It is his work ethic. It is his insistence on always making the right play. It is his determination, all of which make him one of the greatest players of all time, and you saw it in those last three games, put up some of the most staggering statistics in Finals history.
“When this kid from Akron broke down and fell to his knees when he realized he finally fulfilled a promise he made all those years ago and brought a championship back to Northeast Ohio.”
The Cavaliers’ run to a championship has been defined by many things, but none more than three moments over the final two minutes of Game 7.
In succession, James got a chase-down block of Andre Iguodala on a layup attempt. Then, point guard Kyrie Irving hit a pull-up three pointer from the right wing to give the Cavaliers a three-point lead in the final seconds. Lastly, power forward Kevin Love defended two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry on a late three-point attempt that was off the mark.
“In Game 7, the Cavs fall behind on the road only to fight back and lock up the title with an unbelievable two minutes,” Obama said. “It was ‘The Block,’ what LeBron has said was the defining play of his career, ‘The Shot’ by Kyrie putting the Cavs up, ‘The Stop’ by Kevin Love. Kevin was moving. I hadn’t seen defense like that.”
SHOUT OUT FOR SHUMPERT
There were many dramatic moments from the 2016 season, but few were more challenging than shooting guard Iman Shumpert having to deliver his daughter at home when his wife went into labor a week before Christmas.
Obama credited Shumpert for welcoming his first child into the world.
“Iman Shumpert playing not only great defense and scoring, but also, delivering his wife’s baby in the bathtub,” Obama said. “Using a pair of headphones to tie off the umbilical cord? Now that’s something right there. That was an all-star move.”
PRAISE FOR OFF-COURT WORK
In addition to jokes about droughts and shirts, mentions of plays and special moments, Obama lauded the Cavaliers for their charitable endeavors.
According to the President, the Cavaliers have given more than $23 million in the last 22 years to and averaged nearly 200 visits in the community.
Also, individual players like James and Love have taken the initiative to speak out against gun violence and campus sexual assault across the country.
“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,” Obama said.
“It takes all of us, businesses, non-profits, athletes, role models working together to achieve the progress that we’ve seen. I know that Cleveland could not be happier or more proud of having this trophy, but this was already a championship group of guys even before last year, and you should be very proud of them.”