Barack Obama: Audacity of Hoops
The things a man must do to become president: Dec. 17, 7:43 a.m.: Barack Obama arrives at a Spencer, Iowa, YMCA for a one-on-one basketball game against SI senior writer S.L. Price. Obama notes the red-white and blue ball's resemblance to his campaign logo, the only time he makes mention of the looming Iowa caucuses.
As a young teen, Obama had the famous poster of a soaring Julius Erving affixed to his wall. He remembers it clearly: Dr. J's knee-braces, that right arm held high.
The Senator goes on the defensive.
The Senator attempts a rebound. Price politely attempts to crack his ribs.
Obama drives the lane, Price's defense resembling a man slurping soup.
Between games, Obama describes his deep basketball jones. Asked how it felt the first time he dunked on a 10-foot basket, he says, ''That was big. Sixteen [years old]: I still remember the day that it first happened, one of those magical days when you're just in a zone... I was on the single-A team, and at the end of practice I was just raining down threes; I went and took a half-court shot and it went in. This friend of mine, Larry Tavares -- I still remember, but of course he wouldn't -- he was shagging balls for me and I said, 'You know what? I bet I can dunk today; I'm feeling good.' and I took it and went.... (he mimics throwing a ball down). I did it about two more times, and that was about it.''
Yes, Obama is a liberal Democrat, so no, it's no shock that he prefers to go left.
Obama tries to stop Price's intermittent rain of twos. Price may well have actually cleared five inches, vertical, on this shot.
Game over. Both thoroughly gassed, they're actually just trying to prop each other up.
Obama reminds some of Lenny Wilkens, the Hall of Fame NBA guard who campaigned for the candidate.
While basketball itself won't be sworn in on Jan. 20 as the 44th president of the U.S., the game has played an outsized role in forming the man who will.