Before the results to the 2008 Presidential election became official on Nov. 4 of that year, many of the Lakers players were almost as plugged into the outcome as they were the team scouting reports heading into NBA Finals seven months later.
Then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama won in November, and the Lakers followed suit by defeating Orlando in Game 5 in June to secure not just the NBA title, but a trip to the White House to meet the President seven months later a day before L.A.’s Tuesday night game against Washington.
Among Obama’s numerous supporters within the NBA community is Derek Fisher, who relayed his and his team’s sentiments about Monday’s meet and greet prior to L.A.’s Sunday evening game in Toronto.
“We’re all excited about it,” said Fisher. “It’s one of those rare times in an individual lifetime where there is an election or an event that changes the course of the next 30, 40, 50 years.
“A lot of people, including us, feel like President Obama’s election was one of those moments. So to be the first team that gets to actually go and meet him, see the White House and be apart of the entire event is pretty cool.”
Fisher’s backup, Jordan Farmar, expressed similar feelings.
“I’m really excited,” he noted. “I’ve never been to the White House, and being a guest there will be special.“
Farmar actually had a chance to introduce President Obama before a speech in Newport Beach in the summer of 2008, and said he jumped at the opportunity after his agent set up the details.
“It was really special, and President Obama was really cool,” said Farmar, who spoke to Obama for about 15 minutes before the speech. “We talked basketball right away; we had just lost to Boston in the Finals then, but we’ll have something better to talk about this time.”
Yet in his haste to pack for L.A.’s eight-game road trip (three down, five to go), Farmar forgot to pack a suit to wear to the ceremony.
“I had to go get one made (Sunday in Toronto),” he said. “You can’t just go to the White House in jeans and a t-shirt.”
Fortunately, Farmar’s suit was delivered during the game in Toronto; he certainly couldn’t afford to be less than sharp as the first team in what is a predominantly African American professional league met the country’s first African American President.
“A lot of us never thought we would see this day,” said Farmar, who like Obama comes from a bi-racial background. “I feel very special to be apart of it and to have the chance to share this with my teammates – we all get along and really care about each other, so it’s really meaningful.”
One of those teammates, Lamar Odom, responded immediately to a locker room question about his favorite president.
“President Obama, in a land slide,” he said before offering some perspective. “My grandmother was born in Georgia in 1923 … A lot of people coming up didn’t have hope … I’m looking forward to going tomorrow and meeting him face-to-face.”
While Odom joked that he also loved Obama because he was a fellow lefty, his eyes sparkled a bit as he imagined taking a photo with the President.
“Just having that picture in my house in Queens where I was born and raised … that will be a big deal to my family.”