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.
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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.
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The Senator goes on the defensive.
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The Senator attempts a rebound. Price politely attempts to crack his ribs.
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Obama drives the lane, Price's defense resembling a man slurping soup.
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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.''
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Yes, Obama is a liberal Democrat, so no, it's no shock that he prefers to go left.
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Obama tries to stop Price's intermittent rain of twos. Price may well have actually cleared five inches, vertical, on this shot.
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Game over. Both thoroughly gassed, they're actually just trying to prop each other up.
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Obama reminds some of Lenny Wilkens, the Hall of Fame NBA guard who campaigned for the candidate.
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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.
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