I’m not going to flesh out much political thought on this blog, but I briefly wanted to speak about democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Personally, I think he’s the right guy for the job. With many of the candidates holding a similar stance on most of the issues, what separates Obama is his charismatic personality. He seems to be an orator and politician that can unite this country which has recently been struggling both domestically and internationally. On top of all that, and most importantly, the man can flat out ball. And yes, he’s left handed, hardy har har.
Obama, who is 46 years old and stands 6 feet 2 inches tall, is a bit removed from his organized playing days. In the late 1970s, he donned No. 23 for Punahou High School in Hawaii and was referred to as Barry O’Bomber. Apparently he didn’t see too many minutes, but Punahou is a school with over 3,000 students and impressive sports programs (in 2005, its sports program was ranked by Sports Illustrated as the fourth best in the country).
Here's a video of Obama in the state championship game, in which Punahou was blowing out its opponent (there have been some debates about its authenticity, but I believe its real). I'm impressed with his play, but he's really gotta hit his free throws.
Obama did not play in college but got back into pickup games at Harvard Law and has kept up with the sport. Although he can’t dunk anymore (he first did when he was 16), Obama still apparently has a pretty wily game.
I’ve read quite a few articles on Obama’s interest in basketball. It’s great to read these stories in outlets like The New York Times or ABC News that speak about pick-up basketball like its some sort of dark, foreign and dangerous activity. Nonetheless, they are pretty interesting.
Here are some of my favorite tidbits from the Times article, including a bit of a scouting report:
“He has been playing since adolescence, on cracked-asphalt playgrounds and at exclusive health clubs, developing a quick offensive style, a left-handed jump shot and relationships that have extended into the political arena.
Mr. Robinson, now the coach of Brown University’s men’s team, said the 6-foot-2 senator is too skinny to be an imposing presence, but he is fast, with good wind even when he was a smoker. Mr. Obama is left-handed, and his signature move is to fake right and veer left, surprising players used to guarding right-handed competitors.
He is gentleman enough to call fouls on himself: Steven Donziger, a law school classmate, has heard Mr. Obama mutter, “my bad,” tossing the other team the ball.”
It seems as if Obama is a glue guy, a shifty guard/forward that is fundamental sound. Kind of like another southpaw and one of my favorite players, Josh Pace from Syracuse. Speaking of the Orange, as the team lost its fourth scholarship guard this season due to a suspension, maybe Jim Boeheim can make a contribution to Barack’s campaign and get Obama to suit up for a game or two (unfortunately, AD Daryl Gross has already contributed to Hillary’s campaign)
Anyways, back to Barack. I’d like to think that Americans, who have a propensity to like a leader they can relate to, will see Obama’s play on the hardwood as something that makes him a “down to earth” guy. Such a hobby is certainly more impressive than what attracted voters to George W. Bush, which was his average – cough, debatable, cough -- intellect.
Obama just seems like the man. He’s a great speaker, is very intelligent, and plays pickup games not only in fancy health clubs, but on the streets of Chicago too. I’ll leave you with a quote from a piece in Sports Illustrated, where S.L. Price played Obama one-on-one before the Iowa caucus.
"All right," I say coyly, flipping him the ball. "This is for the presidency...."
He drills a 19-footer, heels barely leaving the ground. "Did you hear me?" I say.
"Why do you think I hit it?" he says.
I mean if the man called his shot, I say it’s only fair to give him the presidency. No way Hillary pulls that off.
Photo credits: si.com, nytimes.com