For perhaps the last time as the Leader of the Free World, President Barack Obama welcomed a sports champion to the White House to personally congratulate their achievement.
On Thursday, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers paid the president a visit for the first time in the franchise’s history, after they beat the Golden State Warriors in a dramatic seven-game series back in June.
Led by superstars like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving with help from role players like J.R. Smith, the Cavs were the first team to come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit, and they did so against the Warriors in a rematch of the 2015 NBA Finals.
President Obama, an outspoken Chicago Bulls fan, thanked the Cavs for beating the Warriors and keeping them out of the “greatest team of all-time” conversation:
The president joked that “by knocking off the Warriors, [the Cavaliers] cemented the 1996 Bulls as the greatest team of all-time.”
“Your president thanks you for that,” he added while the audience and team laughed. “That’s funny isn’t it? Yes it is.”
President Obama spoke for about 20 minutes before receiving a custom Cavaliers jersey with the No. 16 on it, representative of the year Cleveland won their title.
Traditionally, the sports team that visits the president is allowed to gift him with a jersey with his name and a number on it.
Some teams, like the ’15 Warriors and the ’14 Boston Red Sox, gave President Obama a jersey with the No. 44 in honor of his being the 44th President of the United States.
The tradition of visiting the White House after winning a championship dates back to 1865, when the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball clubs visited President Andrew Johnson. (To learn more about that, ESPN wrote an interesting article about the history of teams visiting former presidents.)
But with President-Elect Donald Trump expected to take office at the start of the new year, some former players believe athletes will no longer want to visit the White House.
“… personal politics in general can by a divisive topic. And for Donald Trump, during his candidacy, he became a polarizing candidate, which included along the way, insulting a lot of people,” Rose said. “So those same people today as American citizens have to digest that he’s going to be the next president of the United States. How it’s going to affect sports? Unlike Tom Brady, when his team won the championship, and he chose not to go to the White House, saying it was a scheduling conflict when Barack Obama was in office. What we’re going to see in professional sports — NBA and NFL — mark my words, there will be players that decline the opportunity to visit the White House under his presidency.”
Many athletes have expressed concern over President-Elect Trump’s comments about minorities and were upset that he won the White House over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017.
In the meantime, there hasn’t been word over the Chicago Cubs’ decision to visit while President Obama is in office. If they choose to, they would likely be the last team to visit while him.
If not, the Cavs were probably the last team to make the trip to the home of President Obama.