Obama hosts NBA champion Golden State Warriors to the White House

The White House

Barack Obama welcomed America’s all-conquering basketball champions into the oval office on Thursday and suggested the experiences of a US president and NBA stars are not so different.

Standing 6ft 7ins tall outside the White House after the 10-minute meeting, Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green said he and Obama had compared notes on sports – and life.

“To think that you would be the president, that’s one of those goals where it’s like playing in the NBA. It’s so far-fetched that you don’t know how you’re going to get there,” said Green, a 25-year-old power forward. “So you can dream of it, you can believe it, but what’s the odds of it really happening?

“He kind of compared it to what we go through, when we’re on the court, it’s a job. Everybody else is in awe and excited but for us you’re going out there, you’re going to try to do the job as best you can. He says it’s the same for him: sometimes you have to pinch yourself and make sure you don’t get too comfortable and make sure you stay hungry and want to do more. He said it does feel surreal sometimes but, at the same time, do your job.”

The Warriors, based in Oakland, California, beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s NBA finals to win their first championship for 40 years. They have made a record start in their bid to retain the crown with 45 wins and only four defeats so far this season.

Hosting America’s champion sports teams offered some light relief for Obama from the burdens of office. He welcomed the Warriors to the ornate east room, watched over by portraits of George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt, where recent public events have included a press conference with the French president after the Paris attacks and a tearful speech about gun control.

On Thursday, however, there was jollity. The most powerful man in the world hopped up and down on the spot in an impression of reigning most valuable player Steph Curry celebrating victory over the Washington Wizards. “For those of you who watched the game against the Wizards last night, he was – to use slang – he was ‘clowning’,” Obama said to laughter. “He was all jumping up and down.”

The president also noted how he beat Curry at golf last summer, but the guard blamed the presence of secret service agents on the course for intimidating him. “That is not the case,” Obama jokingly insisted. “But he will have another opportunity.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr temporarily stepped down at the start of the season because of health problems in favour of Luke Walton, who won 39 games and lost just four. “Unfortunately, the NBA won’t let Luke count those wins as his own,” Obama said. “Which, man, that doesn’t seem fair. You defied the cynics, you accomplished big things, you racked up a great record, and you don’t get enough credit.”

To more laughter and applause, he quipped: “I can’t imagine how that feels.”

The Warriors have become so dominant that they are said to be revolutionising basketball, Obama continued. “They are so good that they seem to be just breaking the game itself. And I don’t play anymore, but I still know a little bit about basketball, and this really is one of the best that we’ve ever seen.

“Great shooting, great passing, a small-ball ‘nuclear lineup’ – it’s almost not fair. And they play not just well, but they play well together. They play as a team the way basketball is supposed to be played. And it’s beautiful to watch when they’re working on all cylinders.”

The short reception was attended by House majority leader Kevin McCarthy and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, “one of the biggest Golden State Warriors fans around”.

Obama could not resist making a couple of references to his own beloved Chicago Bulls, whose mid-1990s records are under threat from the Warriors. Kerr presented him with a Warriors vest marked “Obama 44” – he is the 44th president – and said: “I also want to say congratulations for becoming the first president in our nation’s great history to use the term ‘clowning’. Although maybe Teddy Roosevelt used it somewhere in there, I don’t know.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by David Smith in Washington, for theguardian.com on Thursday 4th February 2016 23.08 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010