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President Obama Talks Basketball with Marv Albert

November 17, 2019

♪♪ (music playing) ♪♪ Marv Albert:
Mr. President, your interest
in Basketball has been well documented, in that there are
a few things going on in your world everyday, how often do you
get to come out here and play? President Obama:
Well, these days I probably play
once every two to three weeks. Not as often as I like, but
during say, the Health Care Debate, when things are just,
you know, 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 it takes an edge off things. Marv Albert:
Now these days when you’re
involved in Pick-Up games, do you feel that you’re
dealing with less physical contact since you
became President? President Obama:
Well it is true I usually
have guys with guns around. Marv Albert:
Yeah, I noticed. President Obama:
So, if somebody, you know,
takes a real hard fall — foul, they could get in trouble. Nobody ever lets me with
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. Marv Albert:
Now, I’m assuming that Bowling
is not on the schedule? President Obama:
You know, 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. Marv Albert:
Now do you find yourself, as we all have back in
the day on the playground, doing play-by-play to yourself? You come out here,
maybe count it down. For example the game is tied — President Obama:
In the back of my mind, Marv
Albert is making the call. Marv Albert:
So, it’s Obama with the ball. Top of the key,
three seconds left… Unleashes for three… Yes!! (cheers) President Obama:
I have your voice in my head
as I’m shooting the three. Marv Albert:
That’s sad. (laughter) Marv Albert:
Now I know you don’t
want to be accused of tampering for your Bulls but,
any advice that you might have, for LeBron James as he
approaches free agency? President Obama:
I think that the most
important thing for LeBron 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 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. First with Shaq then
later with Gasol, you know, 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. Marv Albert:
Could you, on behalf of the
Bulls, throw in perhaps a night in the Lincoln Bedroom
or ride on Air Force One? President Obama:
You know, like I said,
I don’t want to mettle. I will say this, Rose, Noah — Marv Albert:
It’s a pretty good core. President Obama:
It’s a pretty good core. You know, you could see LeBron
fitting in pretty well. Marv Albert:
If you were NBA
Commissioner for a day, what changes would you make? President Obama:
You know, 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 its 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 a little more. Marv Albert:
Alright the Phoenix Suns, in
the news recently wearing the Los Suns jerseys
on Cinco de Mayo. And they took a stand opposing
Arizona’s immigration policy, how do you feel about sports
franchises getting involved in political issues? President Obama:
You know, I think that just
because somebody’s a sports figure or you 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
strong 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, you know, people are engaged
in the big issues of the day, I think is a positive thing
and 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 publicly and
I see no reason why these guys can’t make the same statement. Marv Albert:
Here in Washington, it’s
a great deal of excitement. Wizards, now in possession of
the overall first round pick. John Wall of Kentucky
would be, I would guess, the early line favorite. What’s your, I know you watch
a lot of college basketball, what’s your scouting report? President Obama:
Wall is a terrific player. I mean, you know, he’s got
the 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 wife. He just passes 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. You know, generated huge
affection in this city and it was wonderful to
see his widow there; getting that number one
pick and I only wish the best for that franchise. Marv Albert:
What is the Presidential pick
for this season’s NBA Champions? President Obama:
Boston surprised me. They gelled in the playoffs
in a way that they hadn’t all through the season. 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 Gasol may be the best
big man in the league right now. He’s different from Dwight
Howard but he’s playing — Marv Albert:
Great footwork. President Obama:
— unbelievable footwork. Speed savvy, he’s
playing magnificently. Kobe is, you know, the fiercest
competitor in the league and they’ve got, you know, what I
continue to believe is the best coach in the NBA right now in
Phil Jackson so there going to be formidable and I think
it’ll be a tough series. You know, Boston’s a
veteran club but the Lakers are looking pretty good. Marv Albert:
Mr. President, we appreciate
your taking the time and I really like your back yard. President Obama:
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. Marv Albert:
A lot of people are
curious about that. President Obama:
Charles is a great guy, great friend but that’s,
it’s a scary golf swing. (laughter)

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