Obama welcomes NBA champion Dallas Mavericks to White House

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama welcomed the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks to the White House on Monday, telling the team and its coaches that they “will always share a bond that comes with being the best.

“This team really does have a heart that’s the size of Texas,” Obama said. “This was a remarkable run, a great victory.”

The team, Obama noted, has helped set up scholarships to help military families and met today at the White House with a number of wounded service members.

Several members of Texas’s congressional delegation attended the event in the ornate East room, along with Obama’s trade representative Ron Kirk.

Obama noted it was the team’s first championship win and said he wanted to recognize “everyone who stuck with the team through good times and bad.”

That included the team’s original owner, Don Carter and “fans back at home.”

He had the room in stitches, noting that the win wouldn’t have been possible without the “shy and retiring” owner of the Mavericks, Mark Cuban — who is anything but.

“Not only did Mark help put together an outstanding group of players and coaches, he was also responsible for making this happen today,” Obama said, noting that because of the lockout the Mavs weren’t scheduled to play the Washington Wizards this year.

“That did not sit well with Mark,” Obama said to laughter. “He knew the team had worked hard, he wanted them to get all the perks of a world championship, including a visit to the White House. It is tough to say no to Mark Cuban, so they made a special trip and here we are.”

Obama joked about the team that called itself “the Bad News Bears.” He noted that some had said guard Jason Kidd “was too old,” zinging that “this is first time I’ve been with World Champions who are my contemporaries.”

Nearly every team member came in for some ribbing, including forward Dirk Nowitzki, whom Obama made fun of for his singing.

“The most painful thing may have been his rendition of ‘We are the Champions,’” Obama said to laughter.

The nation’s No. 1 basketball fan clearly enjoyed the visit: Obama lingered for a photo after his remarks, showing the #23 Mavericks T-shirt presented to him by Nowitzki. He then plunged into the crowd, greeting those in the audience, including Lamar Odom, a forward who joined the Mavericks just last month.

And he included a plug for his hometown team.

“I told them that it’s too bad that next year it will be the Chicago Bulls here,” Obama said to laughter. “They said I shouldn’t be so confident.”

Indeed, Obama had picked the Miami Heat to win in 2011. MORE FROM MCCLATCHY

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