WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama welcomed the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks to the White House on Monday, telling the team and its coaches that they "will always share a bond that comes with being the best."
"This team really does have a heart that's the size of Texas," said Obama, who shared a stage with the players and a beaming team owner Mark Cuban, whom Obama jokingly called "shy and retiring" and whom he credited with making the event happen.
"This was a remarkable run, a great victory," Obama said. "A great vindication for all the effort Mark Cuban put into building this team, and for longtime players like Dirk Nowitzki and long-suffering fans like all of you."
Several members of Texas' congressional delegation attended the event in the ornate East Room, along with Obama's trade representative, Ron Kirk, a former Dallas mayor.
Obama noted that it was the team's first championship and said he wanted to recognize "everyone who stuck with the team through good times and bad."
That included the team's original owner, Don Carter, the American Airlines Center staff and "all the fans back at home."
He had the room in stitches, noting that the win -- and the celebration -- wouldn't have been possible without the outspoken Cuban.
"Not only did Mark help put together an outstanding group of players and coaches, he was also responsible for making this happen today," Obama said, noting that because of the lockout the Mavs weren't scheduled to play the Washington Wizards on the road this year.
"That did not sit well with Mark," Obama said to laughter. "He knew the team had worked hard, he wanted them to get all the perks of a world championship, including a visit to the White House. It is tough to say no to Mark Cuban, so they made a special trip, and here we are."
Obama joked about the team that called itself "the Bad News Bears." He had a good-natured dig for several of the players, noting that "they said" that guard J.J. Barea was "too small," Nowitzki was "too slow" and guard Jason Kidd "was too old," adding that "this is first time I've been with world champions who are my contemporaries."
He congratulated the team's coach, Rick Carlisle, noting that he'd won a title as a player, with Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics in the 1980s, has a title as a coach, and -- Carlisle interjected -- with a minor-league team called the Albany Patroons.
"Many of you did not know that Rick Carlisle had also won one of those," Obama said, laughing.
He lauded the team for helping to set up scholarships to help military families and said they had met a number of wounded service members at the White House that day.
The nation's No. 1 basketball fan clearly enjoyed the visit: Obama lingered for a photo after his remarks, showing the No. 23 Mavericks jersey presented to him by Nowitzki. He then plunged into the crowd, greeting those in the audience, including Lamar Odom, a forward who joined the Mavericks last month.
He put in a plug for his hometown team, too.
"I told them that it's too bad that next year it will be the Chicago Bulls here," Obama said to laughter. "They said I shouldn't be so confident."
Tarrant County Democratic leaders were also in the crowd. County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell and former Chairman Art Brender attended after being invited by the Obama For America campaign. It was the first trip to the White House for both.
"It was fantastic, amazing," said Brender, who posed for a picture with the championship trophy.
Maxwell said he was excited to talk to current and former Mavericks and tour the White House.
"President Obama was very warm and friendly," he said. "You could tell this was something he loved to do."
Staff writer Anna M. Tinsley contributed to this report.