SBD/Issue 84/Sports & Society

Obama Inauguration Part III: Basketball Comes To The White House

Could Obama Use Global Appeal Of
Basketball To Help Govern The U.S.?
With President Barack Obama being sworn into office this morning, "today is the day roundball comes to the Oval Office," according to Dan Shaughnessy of the BOSTON GLOBE. The "star of the Inaugural Ball is a baller," and a "lot of good could come from this." Basketball is a "global sport," and at a time when "much of the rest of the world is not happy with us, it might help to have a President who shoots hoops." Unlike "golf, bowling, jogging, horseshoes, and cycling, basketball is a team game," and Obama has "written eloquently about the merging of individual skill and teamwork that is so integral to basketball" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/20). SI's Alexander Wolff, in an extensive profile of Obama, writes after helping make Obama "who he is, after helping him get elected," basketball now may "influence the way Obama governs." People it will "behoove him to get along with," including Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, play regularly and "could wind up as guests in Presidential games." Wolff notes there are "more than 300,000 people who have watched the 'Barack O-Balla' mixtape on YouTube, with its highlights from high school through Election Day" (SI, 1/19 issue). In Seattle, Jayda Evans writes under the header, "NBA Is Eager To Embrace Obama." With today's inauguration, basketball "receives even more cachet," because Obama "readily states how basketball helped him relate to all cultures" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/20).

CROSSOVER DRIBBLE: In N.Y., Jonathan Abrams writes Obama's presidency "comes at a time of relative peace in the NBA, which has sometimes struggled with image issues as an African-American dominated league with a largely white corporate base." But what has "emerged in the aftermath of the last major league-wide crisis -- the infamous Pistons-Pacers brawl in 2004 -- are star players adept at talking both picks and politics." Celtics G Ray Allen: "Whether we like it or not, we have a voice. We have a great voice. And I think that's why it makes us more political." Allen said of Obama's effect on children, "They see a black man being president, knowing that he came from the same humble beginnings that lots of black men and women come from and that they can aspire for greatness." Hornets G Chris Paul: "I think one of the most interesting things I’ve heard yet is every kid, if you asked them who they wanted to be when they grow up, they would say Michael Jordan, even kids now who are too young to have seen MJ play. Now people say Barack Obama. That means a lot for change" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/20). Also in N.Y., George Vecsey writes the core of basketball still is "dominated by African-American players, with their own take on the new point guard in the White House." Several Knicks players "stressed that their pride was not only as blacks but also as Americans." Knicks G Quentin Richardson said of Obama's presidency, "It never crossed my mind that this would happen in my lifetime" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/20).

Lebron Thinks Obama Presidency
Gives Hope To Inner-City Children
AGENT OF CHANGE: Cavaliers F LeBron James, in a Q&A with GQ's Joel Lovell, said of Obama winning the presidential election, "I thought it was unbelievable. Being African-American and growing up in the inner city, you only think there are a few ways out. It shouldn't be like that, but it is. You think there's basketball or doing it the wrong way, and we all know what the wrong way is. Seeing Obama get elected, you're like, Wow, I can put on a shirt and tie and run for office. If not get elected president, I could be the mayor. ... It means a lot" (GQ, 2/ '09 issue). Nuggets G Chauncey Billups said of Obama's presidency, "I know when I was a kid and you'd be in class and the older people who were black said, 'You can be anything.' A lot of times, when you look on TV, and the only blacks you see are athletes and entertainers, it's tough to believe that. ... But now to have a president and a lot of politicians and things like that, you really can be anything you want to be" (DENVER POST, 1/19). Wizards G Gilbert Arenas said of Obama taking office, "It's a great feeling. It's bringing Washington back to a higher state. Hopefully, he can just unite the people" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/18). Bulls F Drew Gooden: "I think Obama is someone we've needed. He represents the melting pot and is very global and international" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 1/18).

PRESIDENTIAL PARDON: Celtics coach Doc Rivers reworked the Celtics' travel schedule so that the team can watch today's inauguration on TV. The Celtics had originally scheduled an 11:00am ET flight today to Miami, but the team changed that to 8:00am. Celtics G Ray Allen flew to DC after last night's victory over the Wizards with Celtics Managing Partner Steve Pagliuca to attend today's celebration (BOSTON HERALD, 1/20). Magic C Dwight Howard said that he has been invited to Obama's inauguration today and will attend "after the Magic accommodated him," as the team changed its practice schedule so that Howard could attend (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 1/18). 76ers G Andre Miller said that he was planning to skip today's practice -- "risking a possible fine from his team -- to attend the inauguration and one of the balls later in the day." But Knicks G Chris Duhon, who used to play "pickup games with Obama" in Chicago, is one of "many basketball players frustrated that his day job won't allow him to attend the ceremony in person." Duhon: "It was something I was looking forward to. ... But again, my obligations are to this Knicks team. I'm just going to sit on my couch to watch it" (AP, 1/18). The Bulls were tentatively scheduled to have a shoot around this morning, so players said that they would "tape Obama's inauguration if they can't watch it live" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 1/18). Injured Wizards F Etan Thomas "may attend the inauguration since he is not on the West Coast trip" with the team. In Boston, Marc Spears reported while Obama has yet to attend a Wizards game, the team "would welcome the admitted hoop junkie any time." Wizards interim coach Eddie Tapscott: "It's always nice that the president of the United States is a basketball fan, an NBA fan. It's a terrific thing. We will certainly welcome him if he wants to come to practice" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/18).

John Thompson III Made Arrangements
To Attend Obama's Swearing-In Ceremony
CUTTING CLASS: In N.Y., Lenn Robbins wrote some college basketball teams are "changing practice schedules" in order to watch or attend the inauguration. Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim: "It's a momentous event in the history of our country" (N.Y. POST, 1/17). Georgetown Univ. men's basketball coach John Thompson III was planning to attend today's swearing-in ceremony, and Thompson also was "considering shifting practice from its usual" 4:00pm start to the "early evening to ensure that the Hoyas have an opportunity to watch the historic event, if they choose to do so." Seton Hall Univ. men's basketball coach Bobby Gonzalez: "We certainly are going to talk about it. Will we watch as a team or not? I'm not sure." George Washington Univ. G Travis Knight said that a contingent of the team "plans to be present for much" of the inauguration (WASHINGTON POST, 1/16). Univ. of Georgia men’s basketball coach Dennis Felton “gave the team time off from practice” and was expected to attend today’s inauguration (USA TODAY, 1/20).

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