Basketball Inaugurated as New National Sport

As Both Teamsters know, Barack is a big hoops-head and we’ve been covering that with some regularity over the past few months.

But there have a been several basketball-related stories that have come out leading up to the inauguration that I’ve been holding for today. One little tidbit that was particularly notable was that Marv told Reggie on the air yesterday that Barack crafted the beginnings of the 2004 Democratic National Convention speech that launched him into mainstream consciousness while watching the NBA on TNT.

Then there’s the “Audacity of Hoops” article that ran in SI last week, which ably runs through Barack’s love of the game from his youth to the present day. Plus, here’s a photo gallery of Obama playing one-on-one with an SI journalist. (Sorry for the long excerpt, but it’s warranted. In fact, just go read the whole article. It’s great and we’ll still be right here when you’re done.)

As for raising oneself to be a black man in America, he remembers, “no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant.” Aside from those stationed with the military, Hawaii in the mid-1970s could count barely 400 black residents.

Soon two events conspired to help Obama address his alienation. In December ’71, during a visit that would constitute Barry’s only memory of the man, his father gave him a basketball as a Christmas present. A photo survives of the two of them posing with the ball before the Christmas tree. Barry would come to regard that basketball as a charge as much as a gift.

The second event would take place a few months later, after Barry’s grandfather scored two scarce tickets to watch Hawaii play. Between 1970 and ’72 the Rainbows put together a 47-8 record and received the university’s first NIT and NCAA invitations. With aloha-print shorts and bountiful Afros, the Fabulous Five averaged 90 points a game as the pep band played Jesus Christ Superstar and fans spilled into the aisles. As Obama recounts in Dreams, “I had watched the players in warmups, still boys themselves but to me poised and confident warriors, chuckling to each other about some inside joke, glancing over the heads of fawning fans to wink at the girls on the sidelines, casually flipping layups or tossing high-arcing jumpers until the whistle blew and the centers jumped and the players joined in furious battle.”

This, he decided, was a world into which he could fit his young black self. By the time he hit his teens, he was taking his father’s gift to school, shooting between classes and over the lunch hour. Teachers and students soon remarked that his gait had taken on a ballplayer’s bounce, a suppleness of foot that can be seen today when he bounds onto a stage. As he grew more confident, he drifted to the school’s lower courts, even after basketball practice. There, and at the university gym and at playgrounds around town, he would engage the island’s best adult players. Chris McLachlin, Punahou’s varsity coach, can’t recall a player who loved the game more.

The TNT crew also had plenty to say during their NBA triple-header on MLK day. Here’s the unsurprisingly worthwhile John Thompson/Caron Butler conversation with JT’s grandkids. Former Celtic player and Georgetown coaching legend John Thompson is particularly enlightening and there is a fantastic (yet depressing) moment of truth where he responds only-half-tongue-in-cheek to his granddaughter’s question of “When did you figure out that there were more things that you could be?” without hesitation by saying “When they told me there was a black man elected president.”

CWebb, Kenny and EJ politicked ditto on President Obama as well.

Dan Shaughnessy also devoted his Boston Globe column to Barack and basketball and, surprisingly, it’s not half-bad, even if I already knew most of this stuff.

We saw a lot of Obama’s game on the campaign trail. He played one-on-one against SI’s S.L. Price in Des Moines. He practiced with the North Carolina Tar Heels and tried unsuccessfully to take the ball to the basket against Tyler Hansbrough. He swished a trey when he visited our troops in Kuwait.

Any surprise he carried North Carolina and Indiana in November? Some Red States love basketball more than Red.

Of course, who can forget the Obama highlight tape on YouTube, which I actually don’t think I’ve ever posted before. And if it this a duplication, whatever — it’s set to Dilated Peoples so you better build twice.

UPDATE: KJ was talking shit before the inauguration. Now, he talks even more shit (although these videos are probably old actually).

Lastly comes Baller-in-Chief, which certainly has anything I’ve missed over the last few months.

And, oh yeah, this.

(Photoshop via Cuzoogle, who has many others worth checking out)

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