Kobe, Lakers Re-Unite with President Obama
On Monday afternoon at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, the Lakers took the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama for the second straight season, dividing their time between classrooms of smiling eight-year-old kids and being congratulated for their 2010 championship by the President.
A year after doing a community service activity in the morning and moving on to the East Room of the White House later in the day, the Lakers again spent some time with kids, this time in the company of the President. When Obama arrived, he joined L.A.'s coaches and players in a room of about 20 children who had been writing letters and sending care packages to military members, taking time to chat with Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Co. as well as the kids.
"I liked the idea," said Phil Jackson. "It was good for our team to do this, something that's special for people in need over Christmas. That was very good, and the meeting with the President was very casual in an atmosphere that was much less formal than at the White House."
After the session with the kids, Obama made his congratulatory remarks to the team while up on a podium in the Boys & Girls Club gym.
|U.S. President Barack Obama (C) pretends to shave a boy while filling care packages with Kobe Bryant (R) View Gallery|
"I want to congratulate everybody on the team, everyone who works for the organization and all the fans who cheer them on year after year," said Obama. "I have to say that there is a longstanding tradition of welcoming championship sports teams to the White House, but, here's the thing ... these guys have been there so often. Kobe and Derek (Fisher) have been there so many times they could lead tours themselves. The same is true for Coach Jackson, so I thought we'd change things up a bit."
Bryant has met President Obama four or five times now in the past two years, and for the NBA's most determined player, even a few minutes with a President that Bryant says shares his uniquely intense work ethic and competitive nature is a blessing.
"He's so down to earth, but extremely competitive," said Bryant. "You get that sense. The cool thing about going to the White House (last year) was being able to talk to people that work with him, and they continue to talk about his resiliency and always having a positive attitude no matter what. Even if you have setbacks, it's always 'We're still going to get to where we need to go.' That's one of the characteristics that I admire most about him."
After all, isn't that what made Kobe Bryant one of the greatest basketball players in history?
"He knows that about me as well, that I have that same determination, that no matter what the obstacles or the adversity, we're still going to get to where our goal needs to be," explained Bryant.
While one man leads the country and the other the Lakers, two things Bryant was careful not to confuse, there is a natural connection between the two men, not only in their attitudes about life but also through the fact that they both have two young daughters. Bryant said that while he and Obama have talked about everything from basketball to politics, the conversation returns often to their girls.
Last season's trip to the White House was of particular importance for many of the Lakers, as the first NBA team to visit the first African-American President.
"That was very significant for us and something we took pride in," added Bryant. "There's a lot of significance in that, not only for us as African Americans but for everybody. I think it's of great significance to how much we've progressed as a culture and as a country."
For Lamar Odom, seeing Obama once again drummed up memories of perhaps the most important person in his life. It was that kind of meaningful day for all the Lakers.
"I still always have that feeling (of pride) when I see him," said Odom. "I was raised most of my life by a woman that was born in the South in 1923, and had seen so much. So I get chills thinking about it. I feel her near me at a time like this, I can feel her presence with me right now."