Monday, August 9, 2010

Obama Dream Team: Stars play, media neighs

Michael D. Shear for the Washington Post:
Obama hoops it up with his own dream team

Every hoops fan dreams of that one special birthday when his pro-ball heroes gather on a court to see if he's got game.

President Obama had that chance Sunday, assembling a virtual dream team of college and pro basketball players for a presidential pickup game in front of wounded veterans and participants in a White House mentoring program.

Obama, who turned 49 on Wednesday, took to the court for a game with a stunning list of all-stars, including [in alphabetical order] Carmelo Anthony, Shane Battier, Chauncey Billups, Derek Fisher, Grant Hill, LeBron James, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Maya Moore, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Bill Russell, Etan Thomas, Dwyane Wade and David West. The game was closed to the media.

Kobe Bryant was there but didn't play, according to the White House, and aides provided no details about the game, which took place at Fort McNair in the District, where Obama often plays basketball with friends.

The presidential motorcade of black SUVs returned to the White House after about two hours for an evening barbecue on the South Lawn. Reporters could see grills being set up on the grass.

The White House provided few details about the festivities but confirmed that the president and his guests would be dining on shrimp harvested from the Gulf of Mexico.

Obama is known for throwing a few elbows on the court and for having a fierce determination to win. But the 6-foot-2 commander in chief had his work cut out for him. A number of the players were 6-8 or taller.

Obama was the nation's bachelor in chief this weekend. His wife and younger daughter returned from a brief vacation in Spain in time for the barbecue, and his elder daughter was at camp.

With his family away, Obama made it an all-sports-all-the-time weekend. He spent four hours at the Andrews Air Force Base golf course Saturday with longtime friends from Chicago and Hawaii, including Wahid Hamid, Laurent Delanney, Marvin Nicholson, Greg Orme, Bobby Titcomb, Michael Ramos, Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker.

That crew was said to be attending the barbecue Sunday at the White House, as well. No word on how many of them joined in the hoops competition.

Basketball is undergoing a renaissance at the White House under Obama, who had a court built on what had been the presidential tennis courts. He plays with staff members and friends, including aide Reggie Love, who was on the NCAA-champion Duke team in 2001.

But in June 2009, when the basketball court was being built, the president told Bloomberg News that he was itching for some professional competition.

"As soon as we get the basketball nets up, we're going to have some of these guys over for a game," he said of pros such as James.

Asked by Bloomberg whether he would be playing, Obama said: "Of course. It's my court."

Natasha Metzler for the Associated Press:
Basketball stars, Obama play hoops for troops

President Barack Obama pulled together an informal dream team of current and former basketball superstars Sunday. But only a few people got to see it.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and other NBA all-stars joined Obama in Washington to entertain wounded troops.

The present-day stars were joined by some retired legends, including Bill Russell and Magic Johnson. College player Maya Moore of the Connecticut Huskies women’s team also played.

The game was played for a group of “wounded warriors” -- troops injured in action—and participants in the White House’s mentoring program. It took place at a gym inside Washington’s Fort McNair, a short drive from the White House. The president was inside the gym for about two hours.

The reporters assigned to keep tabs on the president were shut out of the gym, forced to wait in vans outside. Asked why media coverage was blocked, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama “just wanted to play.”

After the game some of the players joined Obama and a group of his friends for a barbecue at the White House, capping the president’s 49th birthday week.

A small tent and tables decorated with sunflowers and yellow and white tablecloths were being set up on the South Lawn when Obama returned from playing basketball. The White House said the meal will include shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico.

First lady Michelle Obama and daughter Sasha returned to the White House on Sunday night after a vacation in Spain. The Obamas’ older daughter, Malia, is away at summer camp.