US President Joe Biden (left) receives a jersey from Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry as Giannis Antetokounmpo and other members of the team watch during an event where Biden honored the Bucks for winning the 2021 NBA Championship, on the South Lawn at the White House on November 08, 2021 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The Milwaukee Bucks were “humbled” to be the first NBA team in almost five years to visit the White House as guests of the US president.
The Bucks met with President Joe Biden on Monday, restarting a tradition that was halted during the tumultuous presidency of Donald Trump.
“It’s amazing and humbling to be part of that tradition. It’s very cool,” said Bucks center Brook Lopez, who is from Los Angeles, California.
NBA players had chosen not to attend White House celebrations honoring championship US sports teams over Trump’s Republican policies directed at stripping away some of the rights of minorities, especially the civil rights of America’s Black community.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the last NBA team to visit the White House, while former president Barack Obama was still in power.
On Monday, the players and coaches met with Democratic leader Biden, who singled out Donte DiVincenzo, who like the president comes from Delaware.
“He won two state championships there,” Biden said. “So he’s used to this stuff.”
DiVincenzo said the experience would provide him with lifelong memories.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” DiVincenzo said. “It was a humbling experience, for one, to see somebody from Delaware in the presidency, and two, to be here with the team, win a championship, be here to celebrate that.”
Biden also talked about the rags-to-riches story of Bucks leading scorer Giannis Antetokounmpo, who rose from poverty growing up in Greece — which included sharing a pair of shoes with his brother — to realize the American dream.
“I got a little emotional,” Antetokounmpo said. “I know how much (my family) sacrificed because this doesn’t go back eight years. This goes way back since I was a kid.”