ORLANDO — With the National Basketball Association’s glitterati gathered here for the league’s All-Star Weekend, President Obama flew in Thursday to mingle briefly — and raise some campaign cash.
Obama arrived at the home of Dallas Mavericks’ star Vince Carter, to greet 70 supporters who had paid $30,000 apiece for a dinner in the player’s full-sized basketball court. The time on the digital scoreboard read 20:12, and the score was 44 to 44 to welcome the nation’s 44th president.
A Who’s Who of stars were gathered around the dinner tables: NBA Commissioner David Stern, legendary player Magic Johnson, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former players Alonzo Mourning and Steve Smith, and L.A. Clippers star Chris Paul. Obama hugged the demonstrative Cuban, who had recently visited the White House with his team because they won the NBA title last season.
Obama, an avid pickup player, appeared to be enjoying himself in the company of the athletes.
It’s a nice gym,” Obama said, opening his remarks. “Vince said that he left the other side open in case I wanted to get in a dunk contest with him. But I told him I didn’t bring my sneakers, so, not tonight.”
Obama added that his former aide Reggie Love, who played basketball at Duke University, was not in the room so the president was able to praise Carter, an alum of Duke’s arch-rival: the University of North Carolina.
In an interview with ESPN, Carter had said “I got a phone call from somebody from his office saying that he wanted to do something All-Star weekend, like have a dinner at my house and I was like, ‘OK.’ I said fine with me. It’s cool, I’m excited about it.”
Carter added: “It’s a good cause. For as much as he’s criticized I think he’s done a great job.”
During his opening remarks, Obama also offered his appreciation to Stern.
“I just want to say, thank you so much for settling the lockout,” Obama said, referring to the collective bargaining impasse that delayed the start of the season. “I don’t know what I would be doing with myself if I didn’t at least have some basketball games around.”
On the way to Orlando from Miami, Obama had watched the first half of the game between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks.