Love him or hate him after nearly four years in office, one thing is for certain: Barack Obama is the first basketball president – a fact that could curry lots of favor with Generation X and Y voters in a celebrity-charged election.
Sure, Bill Clinton was lucky enough to enjoy his home-state University of Arkansas’ 1994 victory in the NCAA Tournament and play host to the Dream Team in ’92. Sure, guys like George W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon were often more erudite when discussing sports than, you know, politics (check out “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72” for Hunter S. Thompson’s interview with Tricky Dick, an interview which Thompson was told could only be about NFL football). And the Kennedys surely won popularity points for their picturesque family touch-football games.
However, no US president has leveraged sports fandom on an international scale like Obama. (Check out BallinEurope contributing writer Enrico Cellini’s piece on his pet project, tracking Obama’s basketball diplomacy moves.) And the president’s preference for basketball represents the rise of the NBA and to some extent NCAA hopes during David Stern’s reign as the big league’s commissioner.
(Is it any coincidence that Obama came to professional prominence in that hometown of the 1990s’ Incredibulls? BiE thinks not.)