WASHINGTON – Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors were winning on and off the court during their brief stay in the nation’s capital.
The team took center court at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night as they faced off against the Washington Wizards. Curry lit up the arena, finishing the night with 51 points before a capacity crowd. They won 134-121.
The next day, the league MVP and reigning NBA champions took center stage in the East Room of the White House, where they were honored by President Barack Obama, not only for winning the NBA championship last year but also for their community work.
“I mean, every night you try to play the best you can,” Curry told reporters after the ceremony when he was asked if his performance Wednesday night had anything to do with meeting the president the following day. “Thankfully, I made a couple of shots in the first quarter, got a rhythm.”
Those couple of shots included seven three-pointers in that first quarter alone. Finishing with 11 three-pointers for the night, Curry was just one three-pointer short of the NBA record.
“I knew about it, but I didn’t want to force the issue to chase that goal and try to win,” Curry said. “I was hoping coach would draw up a play that would give me a look, but he had other intentions. … Maybe next time.”
The team got a tour of the White House before the ceremony.
“It was an incredible honor to meet the president, and to get a tour of the White House, to share this experience with the team,” head coach Steve Kerr said after the ceremony.
Draymond Green said there wasn’t too much basketball talk with the president during the tour.
“He just told me I need to watch my mouth,” Green joked, who is notorious in the league for trash talk.
But telling Green to watch his mouth is just about the only thing the president could find for constructive criticism for a team that is 45-4, with many comparing them to the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls, who set the record with 72 wins in a season – a record the Warriors are after.
“Now, let’s face it, the Warriors are in the midst of a pretty special two-year run,” Obama said. “Folks are saying that they are ‘revolutionizing’ basketball. They are so good that they seem to be just breaking the game itself.”
While Obama noted that the East Room is not as loud as the Oracle Arena where the Warriors play, or as he called it, the “Roaracle,” there was much laughter and joking throughout the ceremony.
“Now, let me begin by saying I was hoping that Riley Curry would be here today to share the podium with me, but I guess I’m going to have to get media training some other day,” Obama said in his opening statement.
There were even some political undertones amid the jubilation.
“Now, for those of you who don’t know, the Warriors started this season without Coach Kerr, who was recovering from back surgery,” Obama said. “So Luke Walton stepped up and led the team to a ridiculous 39-4 record. Unfortunately, the NBA won’t let Luke count those wins as his own. Which, man, that doesn’t seem fair. You defied the cynics, you accomplished big things, you racked up a great record, and you don’t get enough credit.”
He paused, then added, “I can’t imagine how that feels.”
After defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in May, the Warriors returned to the regular season undefeated for 24 straight games, setting an NBA record for most straight wins to start a season.
“They play as a team, the way basketball is supposed to be played,” Obama said. “And it’s beautiful to watch when they’re working on all cylinders.”
Obama gave many of the team members a shout out, even suggesting that Klay Thompson had a prettier shot than Curry did.
“But it’s not just Steph,” Obama said after noting Curry’s performance against the Wizards the previous night, and even poking fun at him by imitating his celebration tactics. “There’s the other ‘Splash Brother,’ Klay, who dropped 37 points in a quarter, and whose jump shot is actually a little prettier. I’m just saying. There were Barnes dunks, Bogut blocks, Draymond Green showing us ‘heart over height’ every single night.”
The ceremony ended with Steve Kerr taking the podium to thank the president and to take him on as a “free agent” once his term is up.
“You can consider this a symbol of an offer that’s coming,” Kerr said. “We want you – as soon as your duties are done here in the White House, we’d like you to be the leader of Dub Nation.”
Reach reporter Heather Khalifa at [email protected] or 202-408-1488. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
Download photos: Warriors-WH.zip