NBA Champion Bucks Visit Biden's White House, Ending Drought From the Trump Era

The NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks were welcomed into the White House Monday, the first NBA team to be back in the White House after nearly five years.

The sitting president, whether Republican or Democrat, often honors sports champions with a White House ceremony, but the visits stopped during former President Donald Trump's time in office. Many athletes had issues with Trump's policies on police, immigration, and more, and Trump did not take kindly to the criticisms.

President Joe Biden welcomed the team into his home not only for their championship achievement but also for their encouraging efforts for the COVID-19 vaccine and speaking out after the 2020 police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.

The Bucks were led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and all seemed genuinely excited about visiting the White House and bringing back the treasured tradition.

"This is one of those amazing gifts we get to experience: come to the White House and meet the president of the United States," Antetokounmpo said.

Antetokounmpo even posted a video on social media of him practicing his greeting for the president.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Milwaukee Bucks at The White House
The NBA champions Milwaukee Bucks were welcomed into the White House Monday, the first NBA team to be back in the White House after nearly five years. President Joe Biden listens as Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo speaks during the ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. Susan Walsh/Associated Press

"You took a stand for justice and peace in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and you've gotten people engaged," Biden said. The NBA postponed games in 2020 after the Bucks announced they would not participate in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series as they sought to shed light on what they said were racial injustices facing Black communities.

Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks end a 50-year drought, bringing home an NBA championship for the first time since Lew Alcindor (the Hall of Famer who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar after converting to Islam) and Oscar Robertson led the team.

Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, a billionaire hedge fund manager, is a prominent Democratic donor.

His son and the team's senior vice president, Alex Lasry, is on leave as he competes in a crowded race for the Democratic nomination for one of Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seats, vying for the chance to take on Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.

Biden didn't make any direct mention of the Lasrys' Democratic ties. But the president at the start of his remarks paid tribute to Ted Kellner, a Wisconsin businessman and philanthropist who served as an honorary chairman of the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, and former Bucks owner Herb Kohl, a former Democratic U.S. senator from Wisconsin.

Biden noted that Kellner had helped save his first run for U.S. Senate in 1972 with an infusion of cash when he was running short on funds.

Lasry slyly suggested he hopes that the team keeps coming back to celebrate championships as long as Biden is president.

"What the hell, why don't we come back for the next four years?" Lasry said. "Let's do it for eight years."

Trump preemptively disinvited the Golden State Warriors in 2017 after the team's biggest star, Steph Curry, told reporters he planned to vote no when the players came together to decide whether to visit the White House.

The next year, Trump said no invitation was coming to the NBA champs before the playoffs even ended as the finals pitted Curry's Warriors against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. James was an outspoken critic of Trump.

The Toronto Raptors visited Canada's parliament after winning the 2019 NBA finals but players made clear they were not interested in a White House visit. The 2020 championship won by the Los Angeles Lakers, also led by James, occurred when the White House had paused such visits because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump also disinvited the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, the 2018 Super Bowl champs, after several players said they would not attend a White House celebration with Trump.

Trump was fiercely critical of NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem as part of an effort to spotlight the issue of police brutality impacting Black men and women.