President Barack Obama interview with Marv Albert on the White House basketball court, May 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) Photo restrictions follow interview.
Having President Obama in office obviously is good for the sport because he represents the game well. A basketball court at the White House? Makes you wonder…
Video of an extended version follows transcript and will air on NBA TV beginning on Wednesday, May 26.
Obama on how often he plays basketball: “Well, these days I probably play once every two to three weeks, not as often as I’d like. But during, say, the health care debate, when things are just going crazy over on Capitol Hill, a lot of times I’ll just come out here and shoot or I’ll play a game of HORSE and it takes an edge off things.”
Obama on if he played against differently since becoming the President: “Well, it is true I usually have guys with guns around, so if somebody takes a real hard foul, they could get in trouble. Nobody ever lets me win because if you let me win, you’ll never hear the end of it. I’ll talk a little trash about you. I’ll make you feel bad about yourself if we beat you real bad.”
Obama on his improved bowling: “My bowling has greatly improved. So Marv, you’re touching on a slightly sensitive point. I’m not going to walk off the set here, but we do have a bowling alley here at the White House and I’ve gotten a lot better.”
Obama on whether he does play-by-play to himself while playing: “In the back of my mind Marv Albert is making the call. I have your voice in my head as I’m shooting three.”
Obama on his opinion about LeBron James’ impending free agency: “I think that the most important thing for LeBron (James) right now is actually to find a structure where he’s got a coach that he respects and is working hard with teammates who care about him and if that’s in Cleveland, then he should stay in Cleveland. If he doesn’t feel like he can get it there, then someplace else. The one thing I remember about the Bulls was it wasn’t until Michael (Jordan) had confidence in Phil Jackson, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, it wasn’t until you got that framework around you that you could be a champion. Same thing happened with Kobe (Bryant), first with Shaq (O’Neal) then later with (Pau) Gasol. He’s gotten that sense of a team around him and I think LeBron hasn’t quite been able to get that yet. That’s what he needs to find.”
Albert: “Could you, on behalf of the Bulls, throw in perhaps a night in the Lincoln Bedroom or a ride on Air Force One?”
Obama: “You know, like I said, I don’t want to meddle. I will say this, (Derrick) Rose, (Joakim) Noah…it’s a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron fitting in pretty well.”
Obama on what change he would make if he were the commissioner for a day: “I’ll be honest with you, I think the game is in a good place right now. The way they’re calling the game right now returns basketball to where it’s supposed to be, more of a finesse game. The biggest change I’d probably propose right now is the commissioner needs to figure out how to price tickets so that ordinary people can go to the games. I mean, I think that ticket prices have gotten so high, and I understand that salaries are high, ticket prices are going to be high, but you know, you hate to think that the only person that can go to a game is somebody who’s got a corporate account. And that’s something that I’d love all professional sports, that’s not just NBA, but all professional sports to be thinking about that a little more.”
Obama on sports figures and organization getting involved in political issues, such as the Phoenix Suns taking a stand against the Arizona immigration law: “I think that just because somebody’s a sports figure or you’ve got a sports team doesn’t mean that you’re not part of the community and you’re not part of our democracy. I think it’s terrific that the Suns, who obviously feel very strongly about their community, recognize that a big part of their community felt threatened by this new law. You know, when I was growing up, you had figures like Arthur Ashe and Bill Russell who routinely would talk about the world around them. You wouldn’t always agree with them, but that sense that people are engaged in the big issues of the day, I think, is a positive thing. I don’t think that either players or franchises need to always steer away from controversy. I happen to personally think that the Arizona Law is a bad idea, I’ve said so publically, and I see no reason why these guys can’t make the same statement.”
Obama on the Washington Wizards winning the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft: “(John) Wall is a terrific player. He’s got NBA speed, NBA body, great jump shot, unselfish, really impressive. There’s only upside for that kid. And I think it’d be great for him to come to Washington. I became very close to Abe Pollin, who was a great supporter, he and his wife. He just passed away recently, but there’s an example of a guy who constantly gave back to his community. I mean, almost single-handedly, he invested in downtown Washington at a time when it was in really bad shape, and you know, generated huge affection in this city and it was wonderful to see his widow there getting that number one pick. I only wish the best for that franchise.”
Obama on his assessment of the NBA Finals contenders: “Boston surprised me. They gelled in the playoffs in a way that they hadn’t all through the season. (Rajon) Rondo’s become one of the best point guards in the league in no time. I mean, when he gets a real jump shot, he’s going to be unstoppable. But I’ve got to go with the Lakers again. I think (Pau) Gasol may be the best big man in the league right now. He’s different from Dwight Howard, but he’s (got) unbelievable footwork, speed, savvy, he’s playing magnificently. Kobe (Bryant) is the fiercest competitor in the league and they’ve got what I continue to believe is the best coach in the NBA right now in Phil Jackson, so their going to be formidable and I think it’ll be a tough series. Boston’s a veteran club, but the Lakers are looking pretty good.”
Obama on his closing thoughts for the TNT guys: “Listen, you are welcome, Marv, to call play-by-play in any pick up game that we have. I want you to let Kenny know and Charles know that I appreciate them. And I am curious (about) Charles’ golf game though. I want to see if that swing ever got fixed. Charles is a great guy, great friend, but it’s a scary golf swing.”
President Barack Obama interview with Marv Albert on the White House basketball court, May 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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