Duncan to play in celebrity basketball game

February 14, 2014

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan plans to play in his third NBA All-Star celebrity game Friday night in New Orleans. Duncan played basketball at Harvard and spent four years as a professional player in Australia. He’ll be joined on the court by actor Kevin Hart, ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” radio program co-host Mike Golic, some WNBA players and Victoria’s Secret model, Erin Heatherton.

Duncan, 49, grew up playing pick-up ball in some tough neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago, where he mixed with gang leaders in some intimidating settings. On those courts, Duncan learned when to fit in and when to be aggressive, wrote Carlo Rotella in this 2010 piece in The New Yorker.

It was on the courts of Chicago that the 6-foot-5 Duncan met and became friends with Craig Robinson, whose sister, Michelle, would marry Barack Obama.

These days, Duncan regularly plays ball with President Obama and tries to squeeze in time on the court when he’s on the road visiting schools and universities. He gives an autographed basketball as a kind of calling card to every school he tours.

Duncan scored 28 points in the last two All-Star games and won accolades for some very smooth moves, including  a stunning, over-the-shoulder pass in 2012 to rapper J. Cole, who fumbled the layup. But the education secretary is still holding out hope for an MVP award.

Lyndsey Layton has been covering national education since 2011, writing about everything from parent trigger laws to poverty’s impact on education to the shifting politics of school reform.
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