As anyone who once gave $15 to the Obama campaign knows, POTUS had a birthday this weekend. We signed the card, along with the family dog… and Michelle left town.
Naturally, the most powerful man in the galaxy had but one option: invite over a Murderer's Row of basketball greats past and present to play some ball and have an informal cook-out. Footage from this unusual event is fast becoming the Holy Grail for, well, me; if nothing else, we deserve a few choice vignettes. There's infinite grist for jokes-"did you hear the one about Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell, and the last bag of chips?"-and, more seriously, a thousand conversations I wish I could have heard.
Really, though, is a basketball game ever just a basketball game? When Obama first took office we were treated to article after article comparing running a government to a box of chocolate-err, a game of basketball. Hillary Clinton would make a great point guard, Joe Biden could have his contract bought out if things went awry, and Obama himself knew how to sweat the details. I wish it had been that interesting. Most of it was dangerously close to Sarah Palin's mangled explanation of how beating the full-court press was like fending off the liberal armies of Satan.
But there's another dimension to this story. It's not just about basketball-as-metaphor; the game was played often amongst Obama and his closest advisers. I have a scouting report on David Axelrod filed away in case I ever find stuck in the paint with him, trying to earn his respect. Everyone knows that Rahm Emmanuel WILL NOT LOSE-everyone, that is, who wants to preserve his incisors. This is how men grow to live and breathe as one, where trust is forged. You build a team through late-middle-aged pick-up ball, not flowery, post-facto analogy.
Oh, how long ago that feels. Now, with memories of Obama's astronomic pull having become something a burden ("Man, you fell off"), it's time to build for the mid-terms. So where you see a bunch of hoops celebs brought over to entertain the President like a one-man weekend fantasy camp, I see quite the opposite: an audition for a new crop of advisers the only way dude knows how.
Here, in a world exclusive, is what these players might bring to a revamped administration, or at least do to help bolster Obama at this crucial juncture:
Carmelo Anthony: Anthony has been loved and discarded more times than his fans would care to admit. He entered the league as the reigning NCAA champ with Syracuse, and two years later, was alone on a mountain contemplating a string of on- and off-court stinkers. This resilience, and return to the source, is what Obama needs.
Shane Battier: A brilliant smokescreen: Let them groan about how Battier made it just because, like Obama body-man Reggie Love, he played ball at Duke. Privilege, the ivory tower, and other nefarious constructs that, these days, are used to keep good men down. But like his game, Battier's stealth. Famous for doing the little things, he's just what this team needs to make sure it gets back that "on message" mojo, not just a distant memory.
Chauncey Billups: His charisma is equal parts blue collar grit and deus ex superstar. That's the delicate balance that The Man himself seems to have let slip.
Kobe Bryant: Kobe didn't play. Damn straight this administration keeps secrets.
Derek Fisher: Not to minimize Fisher's infant daughter having eye cancer, but that's exactly the kind of selling point for health care that Obama needs. Get Fish on television telling his story-leaving out, of course, the fact that he's a millionaire-and universal, single-payer care becomes a no-brainer. Crank up the holograms and house of mirrors if anyone holds out on the Senate floor.
Grant Hill: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Back when everyone was outwardly racist, and figured that the only way a black man could find his way to higher office was through sports or entertainment (like Reagan), Hill was near the top of the list for First Black President. Still, he seethes. Oh also, Duke again, so watch for that coup.