West Wing Briefing

Obama hoops it up with his own dream team

President Barack Obama pulled together an informal dream team of current and former basketball superstars Sunday. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and other NBA all-stars joined Obama in Washington to entertain wounded troops.
By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 9, 2010; 11:41 AM

Before heading to Texas on Monday to tout his administration's record on higher education, President Obama treated himself to an unusual 49th birthday present: a pickup basketball game with a dazzling roster of pro and college stars.

Every hoops fan dreams of that one special birthday when his pro-ball heroes join him on the court to see whether he's got game. But when you are the leader of the free world, you can make that fantasy come true.

Obama, who turned 49 on Wednesday, played Sunday with a stunning list of all-stars, including Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Derek Fisher, LeBron James, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Bill Russell, Etan Thomas, Dwyane Wade and David West.

And lest anyone try to revive criticism of Obama's tendency to keep his pickup games all-male, the president also included Maya Moore, a star on the national championship UConn women's team.

The White House provided no actual details about the game, which took place at Fort McNair in the District, where Obama often plays basketball with friends. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was in attendance, but didn't play, the White House said.

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 stars who played with him on Sunday were 6-8 or taller.

The presidential pickup game, which was in front of an audience of wounded veterans and participants in a White House mentoring program, was closed to the media.

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.

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 play in such a high-level game, Obama said: "Of course. It's my court."

The Fort McNair court, which is indoors and has room for onlookers, turned out to be a better choice for the birthday game.

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