WASHINGTON -- It’s LeBron James’ world, according to President Barack Obama.
The president honored the 2012 NBA championship Heat with a ceremony at the White House on Monday. Obama, the nation’s First Basketball Fan, had plenty of prepared notes but went off script with old friends James and Dwyane Wade. At times, it was hard to tell who was a bigger fan of whom.
During one exchange with the president, James asked if he was supposed to speak.
“Hey,” Obama said, “it’s your world, man.”
James stepped to the microphone behind the Presidential Seal and spoke poignantly of how humbled he was to be in the White House.
“We’re kids from Chicago and Dallas, Texas, and Michigan and Ohio,” James said.
Then from the back, where the rest of the team was standing on risers, Mike Miller blurted “South Dakota.”
The East Room, filled with about 500 people, burst into laughter.
“And South Dakota,” James said. “And Miami. And we’re in the White House right now.”
Even for one of the most recognizable and popular athletes on the planet, the trip to the White House was a surreal experience.
James closed by saying, “Mama, I made it.”
During his remarks, Obama called James’ effort in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference finals “one of the greatest performances in basketball playoff history, dropping 45 points.”
The president then added that James “had a scary look in his eye.” Obama then named Wade “the heart and soul of this team” and noted that Wade led the Heat in blocks in the 2012 playoffs.
“And in the postgame press conferences,” Obama said, “he dressed well enough to land himself in GQ magazine.”
Wade brought his signature style to the White House as well. He wore a stylish gray suit highlighted by a pair of flashy red, white and black dress shoes. Obama first noticed Wade’s shoes during the Heat’s private, 10-minute meet-and-greet with the president in the Blue Room. Once in the East Room for the official ceremony, Obama asked Wade to show off his shoes again.
“Show them your kicks here, Dwyane,” Obama said, sending the packed East Room into laughter. “If any of you can pull this off, other than Dwyane Wade, let me know.”
Obama gave Chris Bosh credit for returning from injury during the playoffs to play an important role.
The president then had some fun with Miller, the proud South Dakotan, who famously hobbled through the entire 2012 postseason.
“Mike could barely walk,” Obama said, “and he still hit seven three-pointers in the final game. I still don’t know how he did it.”
Before the public ceremony, while entertaining the team in the Blue Room, the president personally thanked Wade and James for their work in the community and dedication to their families. Obama also thanked James for his role during the summer on the gold medal-winning Olympic basketball team.
For his birthday in 2010, Obama invited Wade and James, along with other basketball stars, to Washington for some pick-up games. The president reminisced with James and Wade about the games and reminded Wade that their team only won one game.
“We just shared a lot of moments, a lot of laughs,” Wade said. “It was just cool and fun to kind of have that rapport.”
More than anything, the Heat’s players and coaches felt like eighth-graders visiting Washington during a private tour of the White House. Throughout the day, players tweeted constantly about their personal experiences.
“A kid with a dream from Akron Ohio,” James tweeted, including a picture of himself and Obama in the message. “Now chopping it up with the Prez. Life is Good.”
During their tour, James and Wade posed for a picture with a portrait of President Bill Clinton in the background.
“No caption needed!” James wrote on Instagram.
Shane Battier, who has always hinted that he might go into politics once his career is over, posted a picture on Twitter of himself striking a Clinton-esque pose behind the president’s podium.
“Great day at the White House to honor the Champs,” Battier wrote. “What do you think, Battier 2032?”
If Battier is lucky, he won’t have to wait that long to return to the White House. Should the Heat win the title this season, the team gets to do it all again in 2014.