President Joe Biden holds up a jersey with Milwaukee Bucks players Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo after honoring the Bucks for winning the 2021 NBA Championship. Photo Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 8 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Monday welcomed the 2021 NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks to the White House.
The team presented him with a jersey as the president said he was "honored" to welcome the Bucks and "continue that tradition" as the visit marked the first time an NBA champion has made the visit to the White House since former President Donald Trump took office in 2016.
"You know, you represented yourselves and your families, your organizations, and a great American city by staying true to who you are," Biden said. "You did the work ... in the offseason and during the grueling regular season."
The Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games for the team's first NBA title since 1971, powered by a 50-point performance in the final game by NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antentokounmpo.
"Giannis, 50 points to seal game six to win the Bucks' first championship in 50 years, since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson won it for the Bucks," Biden said. "And the worst part is, I remember them both. I was a kid. I was a kid. I remember them both."
The president praised the Bucks, who refused to take the floor for Game 5 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series of the 2020 playoffs following the police-involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. The move prompted a leaguewide protest stoppage.
"Last year, as a team, you took a stand for justice and peace in the wake of Jacob Blake's shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin," Biden said. "You got people engaged in the political process."
Biden also praised Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday and his wife, U.S. women's national soccer team star Lauren Holiday, for promoting the COVID-19 vaccine.
"They talked about why getting vaccinated is so important and -- to protect yourself and those who you love and the people around you. And it mattered. So, I want to thank you both," he said.
Antentokounmpo, who was raised in Greece by Nigerian parents, said he and his teammates were "very grateful" for the opportunity to visit the White House.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity to be able to be in the White House meeting the president of the United States," he said. "I could not be as honored and happy that something like this ever -- ever comes -- something like this in my life."
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the last NBA champion to visit the White House in November 2016, days after Trump was elected, as former President Barack Obama finished out his term.
The following year, Stephen Curry, of the 2017 champion Golden State Warriors, said the team would not visit the White House as he and his teammates did not "stand for basically what our President has -- the things that he's said and the things that he hasn't said in the right times, that we won't stand for it."
Curry's comments prompted Trump to tweet that the team's invitation to the White House had been "withdrawn."
The Warriors again declined to visit the White House after winning another championship in 2018.
The 2019 NBA champion Toronto Raptors also declined their White House invitation as did the Los Angeles Lakers after their 2020 win.