Miami Heat's Shaquille O'Neal (L) presents a basketball to U.S. President George W. Bush during a ceremony honoring the 2006 NBA Champions in the East Room at the White House in Washington February 27, 2007. [Reuters]
President George W. Bush highly praised the Miami Heat's championship season at a White House ceremony Tuesday but said he had mixed emotions.
"It is such a joy to welcome the Miami Heat to the White House," Bush told a packed crowd in the East Room. "It was the Miami Heat's first championship. I congratulate you on a tremendous achievement. Even though you beat a Texas team."
"As you know I used to be in pro sports," said Bush, the former owner of baseball's Texas Rangers. "I never had the pleasure of winning anything."
Miami coach Pat Riley gave Bush a number one Heat jersey with the president's name on the back along with an autographed ball .
"The Heat did something they weren't supposed to do," Bush said. "They went into the Eastern Conference championship as the underdog. Nobody thought they could win".
"And then went up against the Mavericks. They're two down and 13 points behind with seven minutes remaining in the third game. They lose that one, it's over.
"They did something no team has done in nearly 30 years, which is win four straight to become the NBA champs."
Bush dribbled the ball expecting it to bounce back up but it died on the carpet, eliciting a roar of laughter from the Heat players.
Bush lauded the Heat's work in the community, citing Alonzo Mourning's foundation, Dwyane Wade's charitable work , and O'Neal's part-time job as a police officer in Miami Beach.
Wade, the Most Valuable Player of the Heat's triumph over the Mavericks, said it was "an unbelievable honor" to attend the White House ceremony.
"You always see teams that go to the White House and you know those are special teams, championship teams," said Wade.
"To be there today with this group of guys, knowing that we did something special last year, is just great."