WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama welcomed NBA champions San Antonio to the White House on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), and said he’d be glad to offer advice as they pursue a title repeat.
“If you guys need any tips on winning back-to-back, you know where to find me,” quipped the second-term president, no doubt aware that the Spurs’ five NBA titles don’t include any in successive years.
As a passionate fan of the Chicago Bulls, who won all six of their NBA titles to date in the 1990s, Obama admitted it was bittersweet to yet again congratulate another team.
“It’s never easy celebrating a non-Bulls team in the White House,” he said. “That’s all I’ve been able to do — so far.”
Despite the demands of his Bulls fandom, however, the President admitted the Spurs were “hard to dislike.”
“First of all, they’re old,” he said of the squad led by 38-year-old Tim Duncan.
“For an old guy, it makes me feel good to see — where’s Tim? Tim’s got some gray. There’s a few others with a little sprinkles around here. There’s a reason why the uniform is black and silver.”
As a father of two daughters, one of whom plays basketball, Obama praised the Spurs as the first NBA team to hire a woman assistant coach, and welcomed the wealth of international talent the team has brought to the league.
“It’s the UN of basketball teams,” he said of a squad that features French players Tony Parker and Boris Diaw along with Argentina’s Manu Ginobili. Italy, Brazil, Australia and Canada are also represented on their roster.
“They find folks who didn’t have a chance someplace else and suddenly they figure out a way to make them shine as part of a team. In that sense, they’re a great metaphor for what America should be all about,” said Obama, who was presented with a Spurs jersey with “POTUS” written over its number one.
The keen basketball fan also offered some serious analysis of the Spurs’ style and its influence on the league, and praise for their bounce back from a crushing NBA finals loss to Miami in 2013, to beat the Heat in 2014.
But he couldn’t resist poking some fun at notoriously taciturn coach Gregg Popovich.
“I want the coach to know that he is not contractually obligated to take questions after the first quarter of my remarks,” Obama said. AFP