Was Barack Obama able to hold his own against NBA and college level basketball players

I heard a journalist several years ago say Obama liked to engage in pick up basketball games where he would play against ex-NBA and ex-NCAA basketball players, and he could hold his own w/o special treatment.

Is that true, was Obama as a man in his 40s able to hold his own against retired college and professional basketball players?


He’s pretty good for someone of his age who played basketball in high school and still occasionally plays pick-up games. By “holds his own”, I think that the journalist just meant that he doesn’t look utterly ridiculous. Incidentally, his brother-in-law is a college basketball coach. Here’s some things about his basketball playing:



Of course it is true. His years of hard training in politics made him quite adept at handling younger, stronger people who had devoted their lives to basketball.

How retired are we talking about? Shaquille O’Neal or Bill Russell?

Yeah, I’m with Little Nemo, it’s plausible that he might hold his own against very-former players who are his own age or older.

It’s also quite possible there may have been overt or covert slacking, particularly when a member of the press was watching.

I did find this which said Obama played a game with a bunch of ex-NBA players.


But it didn’t say how well he did, or if the other players were going easy on him. Some of them like Alonzo Mourning are almost as old as the president.

Let’s move this to the Game Room.

General Questions Moderator

Unh-huh. I’m 51 and HAVE played with and against capped soccer players in my prime.

My six year old can out run me now.

I’m internationally rated at chess.
But if I had the honour of playing President Obama, the game would end in a draw. :cool:

IIRC, there was some story about BO playing against 5 military guys in 08, before the election. Of course, he waxed them.
*Doonesbury *did a rather cloying treatment of it, as if Trudeau actually believed that he won fair and square; and/or, expected others to believe it.


Here’s Obama talking about his basketball skills:


I think we’re wasting way too much time talking about one random comment by one journalist (or really about Wesley Clark’s memory of that comment). Yeah, perhaps some players were apparently just being nice to Obama in not playing as hard as they could. Yeah, some journalists were apparently just being nice to Obama in not being as critical about his skills as they could. So what?

Letting Obama, or any POTUS, hold his own is the equivalent of letting a wookie win at chess.

FWIW in the mid 1970s when CBS was broadcasting a Sunday NBA game, they once tried to keep people from changing channels at halftime by staging a 3 on 3. Each team had a current NBA player, a retired one and a celebrity such as Robert Conrad or Pat Boone. From what I remember when I tried to watch it, the celebrity ended up standing on the outside watching the other two guys, occasionally shooting it from outside. Conrad was upset once when a critic called it a trash sport, saying he took it seriously and tried his best.

For whatever it’s worth, President Obama could probably kick my ass in basketball.

These types of stories are equivalent to North Korean style propaganda about “Dear Leader”. The difference is few believe it in North Korea, whereas Americans are more easily hoodwinked.

Do you have proof that North Koreans generally don’t believe their propaganda or that Americans generally do believe fluff news stories?

Michael Lewis wrote this in vanity fair, the BB stuff is partway into it. Good reading. http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2012/10/michael-lewis-profile-barack-obama

In the UK we have a thing every two years called Sport Relief - a charity event on BBC, and one of the things they do is have an football (soccer) match between an England team made up of former players and celebrities and a ‘Rest of the World’ team made up of the similar players/celebrities.

The very recently retired players such as Beckham, Scholes, Giggs etc are the obvious best players, the next best players tend to be the younger celebrities who were actually half decent at football and played semi-pro in their youth, and then next up are the long retired pro players such as Shearer, Zidane etc who struggle simply because they are unfit, but still produce excellent passing/shooting - and then finally the worst players are the celebrities who have never really played football but take part for a laugh.

If Obama used to be pretty good before he entered politics, and providing the former NBA guys he’s playing against are unfit or not taking it too seriously (why would they?) then absolutely it can be quite an even playing field.

Obama is probably fitter and has greater determination to look the part.

I remember reading an interview with a sports broadcaster who had played college basketball and was rather annoyed at all the fawning the media did over the Obama basketball stuff because it was all obviously just a publicity stunt. He basically said Obama was an okay player but was obviously way rusty and absolutely anyone who put any effort would have trounced him.

I dunno; if I ever had the opportunity to play some competitive game against the President, I would consider it a bit disrespectful if I didn’t try my best. Then again, Obama could probably beat me honestly in a wide variety of games (certainly in almost any sport).