LeBron James: Special to visit 'when Barack is on his way out'

PHILADELPHIA -- Before President Barack Obama issues any final pardons as he leaves office, he has a basketball celebration to host.

The reigning NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers will visit the White House on Thursday and be recognized for becoming the first team to bring a professional sports title to Cleveland in 52 years.

"It's just an honor for us to be able to be represented at the White House because of our accomplishment and what we were able to accomplish last year," LeBron James said before Cavs' shootaround Saturday morning in preparation for their game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I know our guys are excited about it, especially the guys who have never been there before. They should take it in full and appreciate it. We're all going to appreciate the environment."

The visit will occur just two days after the presidential election. Obama extended the invitation in June, after the Cavaliers won the NBA Finals by defeating the Golden State Warriors in seven games.

In a congratulatory telephone call to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, Obama invited the team to celebrate the championship with him at the White House before he leaves office.

The date was largely determined by the Cavs' schedule. They play two road games against the Washington Wizards this season, but the second one isn't until Feb. 6 -- a couple weeks after the 45th president of the United States will be sworn in.

It will be James' third trip to the White House to celebrate a championship and be honored by Obama after doing it twice before as a member of the Miami Heat. He says that the timing of this trip adds to the experience.

"It's going to be special for the simple fact that not only am I going to be there with my Cleveland teammates, but I'm there when Barack is on his way out," James said. "Like I said, he's been a great role model, especially to African-American kids. What he did was something that you never thought could be possible. Being a black president, for me to be there when he's on his way out and his last term is ending, I think that's pretty significant as well."

James, who endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for president last month, said he has already cast his ballot ahead of the election Tuesday in the battleground state of Ohio.

Several days before the final vote, many polls show Republican candidate Donald Trump having the edge over Clinton in the Buckeye State. James will join Clinton on the campaign trail Sunday and speak at a rally at the Public Auditorium in downtown Cleveland to try to swing undecided voters toward the former Secretary of State.

"I know who I'm endorsing, and I hope everybody has gotten their fair share of knowledge and understanding of what this is about, how important this is," James said. "Like I said, I know who I'm for, who I'm endorsing and everyone has the right to do what they want to do."

In his initial endorsement of Clinton, James said he believed that she would "continue the legacy" of Obama.

Lue said that Obama is relatable to his team, which is predominantly African-American.

"Having our first black president was a big thing for me and for my family and I know for a lot of others," Lue said. "I know having a chance for these guys to see a black president in office is a big thing. It's a big deal. So, that's one of the reasons why I wanted it to be while he was still in office because you never know if it will ever happen again."

He added that Obama is also relatable as a basketball fan.

"I mean, he loves the game and being from Chicago, that's basketball heaven," Lue said. "He's a big basketball supporter. I thought Bill Clinton was also a great president as far as following basketball and being a big Arkansas fan, but I mean, it's cool. Having a president that you can relate to, that knows the same things that you know about the game and growing up how you grew up and different things like that. So it's cool for the guys to get a chance to see that."

The visit will come a day before the team's Nov. 11 matchup with the Wizards.