An Evening of Hoops with Obama

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It’s hard out there for a Wizards player. The team re-signs Gilbert Arenas to a $111 million contract only to see him sit out the season (again) with a knee injury. With a half-dozen other players injured throughout the season, the Wizards win all of 11 games by the All-Star Break. A true basketball fan gets elected president, but the team is on a road-trip during Inauguration Week, so they miss the big event in their hometown. Then they watch while Obama invites their division rivals, the Chicago Bulls, over to the White House for a visit. And when he shows up to watch a home game this evening, he roots for the visitors!

Okay, so maybe it’s too much to expect that the president–who looked pretty comfortable in a crew-neck shirt and casual black jacket at the game–would turn on his Chicago team. Especially when he watched the game with two Chicago pals (Marty Nesbit sat with him in the first half and Eric Whitaker took over for the second). But he’s got a new hometown now and the Wizards could desperately use a little presidential encouragement.

The crowd made more noise than I’ve heard all season when Obama entered and left the arena. That alone may have pumped up the Wizards, who pulled off a rare 113-90 win over the hapless Bulls. The President engaged in some friendly trash-talking with fans around him, turning around with a “take that” look when Kirk Hinrich hit a three at the buzzer to end the third quarter. The Wizards’ rookie center JaVale McGee put on a show for Obama in the first half, demonstrating the pogo-stick leaping ability that will make him an NBA star, if not soon enough to help the Wizards.

I don’t remember George W. Bush attending a Wizards game and the few times that Bill Clinton took in a game, it was in a luxury box. But Obama was right on the floor in a corner seat that left him spending most of the game looking around the moving bodies of fans who kept walking by him for a glimpse. Aides Reggie Love and Jon Favreau had a better view several rows up behind the basket. (Heck, my husband and I had a better view, and our seats–fifteen rows behind Obama–are just okay.) Luke Russert, who has taken over his dad’s tickets, stopped by for a few minutes to chat, and John King managed to get by the aggressively-protective usher ladies for a handshake.┬áNext time, Mr. President, snag a baseline seat instead. And maybe invite Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison over for an Oval Office tour? They’re your new hometown stars and they could use some love.