Barack Obama photo

Remarks Honoring the 2016 National Basketball Association Champion Cleveland Cavaliers

November 10, 2016

The President. Hello, everybody! Welcome to the White House, and give it up for the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers! That's right, I said "World Champion" and "Cleveland" in the same sentence. [Laughter] That's what we're talking about when we talk about hope and change. [Laughter]

We've got a lot of big Cavs fans here in the house, including Ohio's Governor, John Kasich, and his daughters Emma and Reese. We've got some outstanding Members of Congress that are here. And obviously we want to recognize Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who put so much of himself into trying to make sure this thing worked. One of the great general managers of the game, David Griffin. And the pride and joy of Mexico, Missouri—[laughter]—Coach Tyronn Lue.

I also, before I go any further, want to give a special thanks to J.R. Smith's shirt for showing up. [Laughter] I wasn't sure if it was going to make an appearance today. I'm glad you came. You're a very nice shirt. [Laughter]

Now, last season, the Cavs were the favorites in the East all along, but the road was anything but stable. And I'm not even talking about what happened on the court. There were rumors about who was getting along with who, and why somebody wasn't in a picture, and LeBron is tweeting—[laughter]—and this was all big news. But somehow Coach Lue comes in and everything starts getting a little smoother, and they hit their stride in the playoffs. Yes, everybody can sit down, I'll be here for a while. [Laughter]

They start winning their first 10 games in the playoffs, setting record after record for three-point shooting. But obviously what this all comes down to is a team that, for the first time in NBA history, comes back from being down 3-1 in the Finals, the first team in history to dig themselves out of a hole like that.

And, I should add, that by knocking off the Warriors, they cemented the 1996 Bulls as the greatest team of all time. [Laughter] So your President thanks you for that. Now——

[At this point, a baby cried.]

Vice President Joe Biden. Crying.

The President. I know, that's funny, isn't it? [Laughter] Yes, it is. See, everybody is happy when their team wins.

The comeback was remarkable—and you learn about people when they're down—against a historically good Warriors team. Cavs won games 5 and 6 by double digits. You had both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving becoming the first duo ever to score 40 points apiece in a Finals game. And then, in game 7, the Cavs fall behind on the road, only to fight back and lock up the title with an unbelievable 2 minutes. There was the Block, what LeBron has said was the defining play of his career; the Shot by Kyrie, putting the Cavs up 5; the Stop by Kevin Love. Boy, I mean, Kevin was moving. [Laughter] I hadn't seen defense like that. But it wasn't just those outstanding players, not then and not throughout the year, because this was always a team effort. J.R. always seemed to hit those shots—you know, "No, no, don't shoot that!" and then it goes in and, "Man, that a great shot." [Laughter]

You got Tristan Thompson who has as great of a motor as anybody and put in extra work to teach himself how to shoot free throws with the wrong hand. I should have tried that with some bill signings around here. [Laughter] You've got Channing Frye who came in right over the trading deadline and changed the tone of the locker room, and his sharpshooting. Richard Jefferson, Dahntay Jones, providing leadership and giving inspiration to all of us old people that you can still do something at that age.

Iman Shumpert, playing not only great defense and scoring, but also delivered his wife's baby in the bathtub—[laughter]—using a pair of headphones to tie off the umbilical cord. Now, that's something right there. [Laughter] That was an all-star move. Got the "MacGyver" flat top, which we miss. [Laughter]

And of course, there's the guy LeBron calls the favorite player—his favorite player of all time, James Jones. The two are a package deal: six straight Finals appearances. Their names even go together: LeBron James Jones. [Laughter]

But the truth is, LeBron wouldn't be LeBron without his teammates: Kyrie, Kevin, Tristan. Michelle's brother, who was an excellent basketball player, always says that you can learn a lot about somebody's character by the way they play basketball. And when you see LeBron James, it is not just his power and his speed and his vertical. 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 makes him one of the great players of all time.

And you saw it in those last three games, put up some of the most staggering statistics in Finals history. He did it the year before despite injuries, dragging his team along to make a very competitive series. You saw it when this kid from Akron broke down and fell to his knees when he'd realized that he had finally fulfilled a promise that he had made all those years ago and delivered that championship back to Northeast Ohio.

So this is a player and this is a team that knows what this title means to Cleveland. This is a city that's, throughout sports history, been through a lot: the Fumble, the Drive, Jordan over Ehlo. A whole lot more. [Laughter] But through it all, Cleveland was always "Believeland."

And that's why the Cavs have always given back to their fans and the community that's been so loyal to them. Over the last 22 years, they've given more than $23 million to local charities. And more than just the money: players and coaches have made about 200 visits annually to schools, hospitals, food kitchens, and more, including assisting educational programs that reach more than 100,000 kids in Northeast Ohio.

And these Cavs exemplify a growing generation of athletes that are using their platforms to speak out. We've seen Kevin on combating campus sexual assault; LeBron on issues like gun violence and working with Michelle to help more kids go to school, go to college. His foundation is doing something incredible: paying college tuition for 1,100 kids from Akron. I should mention that, as we were walking out, Dan Gilbert has been unbelievable in the work he's been doing in Detroit—his hometown—and giving back.

And finally, earlier today the Cavs met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and my Senior Adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to discuss steps they're taking to help build understanding between law enforcement and the Cleveland community, part of a league-wide effort to build stronger communities all across the country, including holding open conversations so we can begin to bridge divides and defuse tensions, and see each other as one American family. It's really important work. It's one—just one of a number of recent efforts we've been proud to partner with the NBA during my time as President.

From the league's support of "My Brother's Keeper" initiative, to the mentoring initiatives, to Michelle's "Let's Move!" and Joining Forces efforts, the NBA has been a model for positive change, and the fact that it's not just a responsibility of Government, it takes all of us—businesses, nonprofits, athletes, role models—working together to achieve the progress that we seek.

So I know that Cleveland could not be happier and prouder 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.

Give it up for the world champs one last time.

Dan, you want to say anything? You guys got anything to say? Come on, Kevin.

Forward Kevin W. Love. So from the 2016 World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, we wanted to present this '16 Obama jersey.

The President. I like this.

Mr. Love. Come on, guys. You got anything else?

The President. The—now, the only thing is, though, I don't—these sleeves get tight. Can I tear these out? [Laughter] Can I rip them?

Mr. Love. You can rip them.

The President. Can I rip them?

Mr. Love. LeBron rips them.

Forward LeBron R. James. I'll show you exactly how to do it. [Laughter]

The President. I'm joking.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:27 p.m. on the South Portico at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Earl J. "J.R." Smith III, Kyrie A. Irving, and Iman A. Shumpert, guards, Channing T. Frye and Richard A. Jefferson, forwards, Tristan T.J. Thompson, center, Dahntay L. Jones and James D. Jones, small forwards/guards, and Joel C. Ehlo, former guard, Cleveland Cavaliers; Teyana Taylor, wife of Mr. Shumpert, and their daughter Iman Tayla "Junie" Shumpert, Jr.; and Michael Jordan, former guard, NBA's Chicago Bulls, and principal owner, NBA's Charlotte Hornets; He also referred to his brother-in-law Craig M. Robinson.

Barack Obama, Remarks Honoring the 2016 National Basketball Association Champion Cleveland Cavaliers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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