Barack Obama regales Phil Jackson and Metta World Peace with another Joe Biden anecdote (Getty Images)
President Barack Obama's love of basketball, especially NBA basketball, has been well-documented. The Hawaiian-born commander-in-chief regularly delights in welcoming not only the NBA's champions to the White House for traditional visits, but also his adopted hometown Chicago Bulls, and he regularly appears at charity events with NBA stars and coaches. And whatever Metta World Peace is.
According to Bloomberg Business Week, the NBA is giving back. Personally, because the league can't official designate Obama as its candidate of choice in this November's presidential election, though league commissioner David Stern hasn't stopped himself from contributing in a very partisan way over the last few years. Elizabeth Dwoskin reports that a collective of NBA players, owners and execs have tossed $2.6 million to federal campaigns since 2009, with 61 percent of it going to the Democrats. Stern leads the way, contributing over $311,000, "almost all to Democrats."
Last Thursday, Air Force One made a pit stop at the Orlando home of Dallas Mavericks guard (and former Orlando Magic star) Vince Carter, where a group of NBA executives and players held a $30,000-a-plate fundraiser in Obama's honor. The guests gathered on Carter's personal full-size basketball court, where the scoreboard was tied at 44, in honor of the 44th President. Among those in attendance were Stern, the L.A. Clippers' Chris Paul, and retired legends Alonzo Mourning and Magic Johnson. LeBron James, who couldn't be there, sent a check.
And before you point toward the league's more notable full and part-owners, understand that not everyone is as enthused. From OpenSecrets.org:
Meanwhile the NBA's more famous owners, such as music artists Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter and Usher "Usher" Raymond, who own parts of the New Jersey Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, respectively, have not contributed to political causes at the federal level. Neither has Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, or Jerry Buss, the owner of the league's most valuable team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
(Isn't it odd that Jordan and Buss, on the complete opposite ends of the money-making spectrum in the NBA, are both tied as the cheapest? Not because they passed on contributing to political campaigns, that's their choice, but in terms of passing on trading for players because of salary concerns or dealing players for nothing, like Buss? Or canning entire scouting staffs? This goes well beyond not writing a check to the prez.)
If you read the reports, just about the entirety of the cash sent to Republican campaigns comes from owners, for various reasons that you don't have to be a partisan voter to detect. Old money versus new money, young voters against old. It's typical, and we're not being hacky or skimming stereotypes by pointing this out.
The president himself made waves on Thursday morning by appearing on Grantland editor Bill Simmons' podcast. Not only did Obama point out that he's been well aware of New York guard Jeremy Lin's acumen as a potential NBA point man since his days at Harvard (the president is a graduate, you'll recall), but he also immediately dismissed the Knicks' chances at challenging his Bulls in the Eastern playoff bracket.
Bill Simmons: But at the same time you're a little worried as a Bulls fan, because [Lin's] in the Eastern Conference —
Obama: I'm not worried.
BS: — suddenly there's a potential threat.
Obama: No, if you look at what has been happening with the Bulls, even with Rose out, even with Deng out, [they] still got one of the best records in the league.
BS: So you like your team.
Obama: That is a well-coached team. And I know you're a big Celtics fan.
Obama: Thank you for [Bulls coach Tom] Thibodeau, who —
BS: That hurts.
As an NBA and Bulls fan, Obama falls right in line with the rest of us. Worried about Derrick Rose's quick return from time spent on the shelf with back spasms, aware of Carlos Boozer's better physique in 2012, and mindful of the Miami Heat's two-week ascension to the top of the NBA, while also hilariously pointing out that "it's over" when the "folks" on the Heat get out in transition.
He called the Heat "folks."
For an NBA player with cash to contribute, how could you not want to support this guy at least on a superficial level? It's not as if Mitt Romney is going to be publicly musing anytime soon about Jermaine O'Neal's ongoing issues with his left wrist. Before you traipse and destroy in the comments section, understand that fans in high places go a long way toward being won over, especially if that fan is the leader of the free world.
Even Boston Bruin goalie Tim Thomas would probably be swayed into writing a check earlier this year if it was revealed that the president knew his GAA by memory. It's nice to know that the man with one hand on the red phone is also scrolling through last night's box scores, and NBA players are responding accordingly.
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