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."
And, as you'd expect in an election season, there are plenty of cash-grabbing parties (say, presented on Dallas Mavericks guard Vince Carter's home court) to go around. From Dwoskin:
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.