WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama honored the Lakers for winning the NBA championship today, inviting the players, coaches, staff and assorted family and friends to the White House. He praised Kobe Bryant, quoted Lamar Odom, talked smack to Magic Johnson and encouraged Shannon Brown in the upcoming Slam Dunk contest.
Obama hosted the Lakers in the East Room at the White House. Bryant and Derek Fisher presented the President with a Lakers jersey with his name on the back. They also gave him a signed basketball. Obama said, “I am especially excited to meet Coach Phil Jackson, the Zen-Master, who won his record 10th NBA championship.”
Obama then added, “I want to point out six of them came with the Bulls (Obama’s favorite team).” Obama pantomimed Michael Jordan’s classic layup in which he switched the ball from one hand to another in midair during the Bulls’ victory over the Lakers in the 1991 Finals. “You remember that, Magic.”
Johnson, now a Lakers executive, cracked up laughing.
“Magic did pretty well,” Obama added, smiling. “He wasn’t bad.”
Johnson later told reporters: “I got a kick out of that. You know, what can you say when the President of the United States can trash-talk you? Normally, I have a pretty good comeback, but this time I had to let him slide. I had to let him slide, because he was right, Michael did do an incredible move.”
Of Bryant, he said, “Of course, I have to recognize Kobe Bryant, one of the most competitive players I have ever seen. If I had a broken finger (as Bryant does), I would have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.”
Of Brown, he said, “One last thing, I was told Mr. Brown intends to win the dunk contest.”
Then the Lakers presented Obama with a jersey and a ball. He went around to shake the hands of the players, coaches and team executives, who had stood behind him on risers as he addressed Lakers staff and family members, plus 100 or so media members from behind a podium. Obama also met Bryant’s daughters, Natalia and Gianna.