Obama wanted to do more than regular White House photo op
Breaking with the tradition of congratulating teams at the White House, President Barack Obama took the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers with him to a community service project at a Boys and Girls Club on Monday.
The president and players led by NBA star Kobe Bryant joined with the youth in putting together care packages for wounded service members and toiletry kits for the homeless before he congratulated them on their second straight title in a ceremony on the gym floor.
The Lakers won their second consecutive title this year, and their 16th championship overall.
Obama said he wanted to do something different than a White House photo opportunity this year with the Lakers.
"These guys have been there so often; they were just there last year because they won the title," Obama said.
Image: US President Barack Obama (centre) and LA Lakers' Kobe Byrant (right) help put together care packages for members of the military and homeless people at the Boys and Girls Club of Washington on Monday
'Kids feel special when people like Lakers spend time with them'
Bryant and teammate Derek Fisher have each won five NBA titles and coach Phil Jackson has won 11 titles with two teams.
Obama congratulated Jackson on his fifth championship with the Lakers, adding that Jackson coached Obama's hometown Chicago Bulls to one more at six titles.
"Not for long," Bryant said.
Calling the Lakers one of the outstanding sports franchises in American history, Obama wished the team luck and thanked them for setting an example of service and "being so generous with your time with these kids."
"When they see people like the Los Angeles Lakers who are willing to spend time with them, that sends a message to them that they're special," Obama said.
Image: US President Barack Obama (2nd from left) with members of the LA Lakers NBA basketball team