Surprise! Former president speaks at fête for USA Basketball’s 50th

LAS VEGAS – With the U.S. men’s basketball team standing behind him, former President Barack Obama delivered a 10-minute speech about the importance of representing the United States.

At USA Basketball’s 50th anniversary party Tuesday night, Obama, whose attendance was a surprise to most in the room, opened his message by telling the audience that there is no bigger basketball fan in the world than him.

He talked about the importance of uniting the country and showing the world what America is capable of at its best.

“I’m pretty confident that they’re going to be bringing back the gold and representing us the way we should be represented around the world,’ Obama said.

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Multiple basketball Hall of Famers, Olympians and USA Basketball luminaries were in attendance, including Spencer Haywood, Cheryl Miller, Dawn Staley, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Sheryl Swoopes, Patrick Ewing, Nancy Lieberman, Reggie Miller, Steve Smith, Tim Hardaway, Doug Collins, Mike Krzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo.

“I just want to come here to obviously help send off the soon-to-be gold-medal winners,” Obama said. “But I want to come by and say thank you to the legends who have represented USA Basketball and America for 50 years now.”

Earlier in the day, Vice President Kamala Harris visited briefly with the U.S. men’s team at practice on the UNLV campus.

Team USA opened its five-game exhibition tune-up for the Paris Olympics on Wednesday against Canada. Obama was in attendance for the contest.

‘To have President Obama come – and he’s great with the microphone and really inspiring with his words – it was cool to set us off into this journey this summer with celebrating the 50 years of USAB and what we’re trying to do this summer,’ Steph Curry said. ‘So I got goosebumps while he was talking.’

Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on social media @JeffZillgitt

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