Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday featured a two-time MVP in the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and, in the Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard, a home-crowd favorite.

But the “MVP! MVP!” chants that broke out during the second quarter at Scotiabank Arena were not aimed at anyone on the c*ourt.

Instead, former president Barack Obama received the honor amid a standing ovation.

Obama, who is known to be an avid basketball fan, was seated with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. The ex-president is reportedly expected to have a role in an as-yet-unspecified capacity with the 2020 launch of the Basketball Africa League, a joint venture by the NBA and FIBA, basketball’s international governing body.

Obama also has personal ties to both of the teams competing in the Finals. He has been a golfing partner of Curry, who has joined him in charitable initiatives.

The Warriors did not visit President Trump’s White House after winning the past two NBA titles, but Obama hosted the team in January when it arrived in Washington on a road trip. Golden State Coach Steve Kerr on Sunday said it was “quite a thrill to visit there and have the whole team there,” calling it “a treat.”

At a pregame news conference, Kerr wore a shirt with the message — “Vote for Our Lives” — but he said it had nothing to do with Obama and “everything to do with the tragedy in Virginia Beach,” where a gunman killed 12 people Friday.

On the Raptors’ side, Obama has a relationship with team president Masai Ujiri, who was shown on camera escorting Obama through the arena before the game.

A native of Nigeria who has directed the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program in Africa, Ujiri joined Obama in Kenya last year at a basketball-oriented event benefiting a foundation formed by Obama’s half sister.

Naturally, no mega-celebrity’s visit to the Raptors’ home would be complete without a greeting from the team’s resident superfan. And so it was that Drake also shared a moment with Obama before tipoff.

Obama was in Ottawa on Friday, speaking at an event organized by Canada 2020, a progressive think tank. He said he had a “little bit of a love affair” with the country (via the Globe and Mail), and he asserted that the international influence of the United States is “hugely magnified by the alliance that it has with countries like Canada.”

Obama also took the opportunity Friday to praise the Raptors, who are trying to win the first championship in franchise history, and the Warriors for their style of play.

“Both teams play like teams. So their superstars are unselfish and just want results,” he said. “Lesson Two is both teams draw from talent that is unexpected and international. … If you don’t know where the talent’s going to be, you have to give opportunity to everybody.”

Previous Next