Obama honors NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers


Staff/wire report

WASHINGTON

You learn a lot about people when they’re down, President Barack Obama declared Thursday, and he wasn’t talking about an election.

Obama saluted the NBA’s Cavaliers for rallying from behind to defeat the Golden State Warriors and end a Cleveland pro sports title drought stretching back to 1964.

Obama honored the Cavs on the South Lawn of the White House, squeezing in another sports champion before he leaves office. He opened with: “That’s right. I said world champion and Cleveland in the same sentence.”

The Cavs came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the championship against a Warriors team that set an NBA record for wins during the regular season.

“The first team in history to dig themselves out of a hole like that,” Obama said. “The comeback was remarkable, and you learn about people when they’re down.”

That comment came shortly after Obama met with Donald Trump, who won the White House race to succeed him after a campaign in which the president declared the businessman unfit.

Obama singled out several players for praise, but particularly focused on LeBron James, who won the Most Valuable Player award during the championship series.

Obama called James one of the greatest players of all time and said it’s not just power and speed that make James great, but his unselfishness and work ethic. “You saw it in those last three games,” the president said.

Obama said the Cavs also exemplified a growing generation of athletes who are using their platforms to speak out. He noted, as examples, that Kevin Love has worked to combat sexual assault, and James has worked to reduce gun violence.

Several weeks ago, state Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, received an email from the White House requesting that he join Obama in greeting the Cavaliers. It didn’t take long for him to clear his busy schedule. Accompanied by his wife, Margaret, the Ohio Senate minority leader and lifelong Cavs fan is hoping that the next invitation won’t take as long to arrive.

“There were about 300 in attendance, including Gov. John Kasich, so it was a very memorable day,” he said. “Margaret and I left last night, got up in the morning and visited the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial before heading over to the White House. You have to take advantage of an invitation like this because you don’t know if you’ll ever get another one.”

The program didn’t start until 2:15 p.m. “Once we got in, we had to pass three metal detectors and three ID checkpoints before heading over to the East Lawn where the U.S. Military Band was playing.

“The championship trophy was on full display in the front with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also greeting the crowd,” he said

Schiavoni noted the president talked about the team, Cavs players and highlights from last season’s championship run, with Cavs forward Kevin Love presenting Obama with a No. 16 Cavs jersey.

“It was a well-planned, fast moving event,” Schiavoni stated. “The president has a lot on his plate, so for him to take time out of his busy schedule to congratulate our Cavaliers on their championship was absolutely great.”

Schiavoni added that his wife also brought an “Ohio Against the World” T-shirt with the hopes of getting it to the president.

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