Obama takes in Olympic basketball tune-ups
President Barack Obama basked in the glow of the Olympics on
Monday, getting a courtside look at LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and
other members of USA Basketball.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took their seats to chants of
”U-S-A” at a U.S. men’s Olympic basketball exhibition game
against Brazil as the loudspeakers blared Bruce Springsteen’s
”Born in the U.S.A.,” images that any president running for
re-election would relish.
”Obviously the talent that we’ve got at this point is
unbelievable,” Obama said during a halftime interview on ESPN2.
”So there’s no reason that we shouldn’t bring home the gold. We
just have to stay focused.”
Obama is an avid basketball fan and the tune-up games before the
start of the London Olympics allowed him to wrap himself in the
Olympic spirit four months before Election Day. His Republican
rival, Mitt Romney, is expected to use the Olympics to highlight
his leadership role during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake
Romney, who helped turn around the Salt Lake City Games after
they became caught up in a bribery scandal, plans to be in London
for the opening ceremonies next week. First lady Michelle Obama
will lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies.
Monday night gave Obama a chance to soak in his favorite sport.
The U.S. rallied from an early 10-point deficit to beat Brazil
After a quick ride to the Verizon Center from the White House,
Obama greeted members of the U.S. women’s basketball team on a
practice court after their win over Brazil in the first game.
”We could not be prouder,” Obama said after hugging Tamika
Catchings, Diana Taurasi and other members of the women’s team. The
women’s team presented Obama with a red No. 1 USA jersey and a
Obama, dressed in a blue jacket and jeans, then walked out
before a roaring crowd, shook hands with fans and sat down next to
former aide Reggie Love, who played basketball for Duke
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama even appeared on ”Kiss
Cam,” the in-house video that spotlights kissing couples during a
game break. The Obamas wouldn’t oblige during the first half,
despite roars and some boos from the crowd. But in the fourth
quarter, ”Kiss Cam” peered back on the first couple and the
president was ready: He put his arm around his wife and planted a
big kiss on the first lady as the crowd roared.
Some members of the men’s team are Obama supporters. A handful
of Olympic team members, including Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant
and Chris Paul, had agreed to participate in a basketball game
fundraiser for Obama’s campaign last December but the event was
canceled because of the resolution of the NBA lockout. The
fundraising game has not been rescheduled.
Obama’s campaign held a fundraiser last February at the
Orlando-area home of Vince Carter of the Dallas Mavericks.
Attendees included Paul, who plays point guard for the Los Angeles
Clippers, NBA commissioner David Stern and former NBA stars Magic
Johnson and Alonzo Mourning.
Basketball has been a longtime passion of Obama’s. He played
high school basketball in Hawaii and likes to play pickup
basketball with friends. He helps coach his daughter Sasha’s youth
team and keeps close tabs on his hometown Chicago Bulls.
During Veterans Day last year, he was courtside for a game
between Michigan State and North Carolina on the flight deck of the
USS Carl Vinson off the coast of San Diego. In March, Obama invited
British Prime Minister David Cameron to an opening round game of
the NCAA tournament in Ohio.