ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
The hoopster-in-chief today honored last year’s NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, for their 15th NBA title – their fourth in the past 10 years.
“The only thing that's better than watching basketball is playing basketball -– but I'm 48, and soon to be 49, and it's a little harder these days to move around on the court, especially when you're playing against kids who are half your age,” Obama said, “But I still get enormous, enormous pleasure from watching great athletes on the court. And nobody exemplifies excellence in basketball better than the Los Angeles Lakers last year.”
Standing in the East Room with the team behind him, the President singled out Coach Phil Jackson, “the Zen Master,” and the Chicago Bulls fan ribbed the team a bit.
“I've been a fan of Coach Jackson's ever since his days running the triangle offense in Chicago. I want to congratulate him on his tenth NBA championship –- the most in history. I do want to point out that six of them came with the Bulls. I just want to point that out,” Obama joked.
The President said he might need the coach’s help for bringing together both parties on capitol hill these days.
“I was hoping that, Coach, you were going to bring some books for Republicans and Democrats in Congress maybe to get them to start playing like a team together. Coach is famous for passing out books and helping people get the job done.”
Mr. Obama also praised Kobe Bryant’s leadership – even with a broken finger, something he joked he’d have a hard time doing.
“If I had a broken finger I would have trouble getting out of bed. And he's still leading the team day in and day out.”
Earlier today the Lakers joined with the administration’s United We Serve initiative and held a fitness clinic for kids from a local Washington, DC elementary school – teaching them some moves on the court, but also how to lead healthy and active lives.
“This team also knows that being a champ is about more than trophies and rings,” he said, “It's about being a winner off the court as well as on it –- and giving back to those who are less fortunate.”
The president noted the NBA and the Players Association recent donation of $1 million to support relief efforts in Haiti – and players Jordan Farmar and Pau Gasol donating their money to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund.
“Pau pledged $1,000 for every point he scored against the Knicks — and I'm glad he dropped 20 –-helping the Lakers to beat New York and changing the lives of Haitians thousands of miles away.”