Winning a championship in sports comes with a lot of perks. You get your ring. You get a banner. You might even get a trip to Disneyland. But without question, the biggest bonus has to be a trip to the White House to meet the President.
There's only one professional basketball team from Arizona who's had that thrill and today they are making a return visit. But this time, instead of a Texas oilman greeting them, the Phoenix Mercury will be meeting one of their heroes: President Barack Obama.
In the Mercury locker room, near the door, is a monthly calendar showing game and practice dates, perhaps a team meeting, the things you might expect a team calendar to contain.
On today's date, it simply reads, "Obama".
Mercury point guard Temeka Johnson is one of my all-time favorite athletes. At 5-foot-3, she's one of the shortest players in the WNBA, but competes with the ferocity of lion. She understands the game as well as anyone and is destined to coach someday, if that's where her heart leads. Off the court, the Meek's Hope Foundation embodies her dedication to helping those around her and is driven by her passion and tenacity and not by a multi-million dollar contract.
When I think of President Obama's message of hope, there's no athlete that embodies that spirit more than Johnson. I imagine when these two meet today there will be an immediate connection and recognition of similar values, iron will and common purpose.
"A lot of people ask this question about what it means to me," Johnson said about the visit. "I remember my grandfather, my great-grandmother, my Grandmother - they never even thought this day would ever come. For me to actually see him and meet him first hand is a huge honor for me, an unforgettable moment. And to go for the reason we're going, everybody doesn't get that opportunity either."
Congratulations to Temeka and the entire 2009 Phoenix Mercury team.