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When he’s done leading the country, President Obama may have a future in the sports world.
Obama sat down with ESPN and Grantland’s Bill Simmons for a podcast interview this week, with the pair discussing his love of playing basketball, watching his hometown Chicago Bulls and his favorite moments as the most powerful sports fan in the world. As it turns out, long before Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin became a sudden superstar and instant celebrity, the president was well aware of his prowess.
“I knew about Jeremy before you did, or everybody else did, because Arne Duncan, my Secretary of Education, was captain of the Harvard team,” he said. “And so way back when, Arne and I were playing and he said, I’m telling you, we’ve got this terrific guard named Jeremy Lin at Harvard. And then one of my best friends, his son is a freshman at Harvard, and so when he went for a recruiting trip he saw Lin in action. So I’ve been on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon for a while.”
Obama, who shared an affinity for The Wire with Simmons, declared Omar (Michael K. Williams) as his favorite character.
Simmons also asked Obama about the business side of the industry, including the lockout that delayed the start of the NBA season. Here, he took populist approach that could have come out of a campaign speech.
“I think it’s real important for professional athletes and sports owners to just remember you got a whole bunch of folks out here, all across the country,” he said, “who invest so much in their teams, and they don’t begrudge these guys making millions of dollars, or the owners making gazillions of dollars — most of them, very rarely can they afford to buy a ticket to go to an actual game. All they ask is don’t be so selfish about it that you’re not looking out for your fans.”
The president also spoke about coaching his daughters in basketball, and the advances made in womens’ sports.
“What’s great is that women’s athletics, girls’ athletics, I think makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “I’m 50 now, so I went to high school in the ’70s. We actually went to — I went to a school that had a strong women’s sports team. But it was still not the norm for a lot of girls to participate in a lot of sports teams, and now it’s just second nature. And they’re healthier for it. They learn competition. They learn how to bounce back from adversity. It’s just — it’s a terrific thing to see. And they’ve got so many role models now because there are so many unbelievable female athletes out there, and they can see that there’s no contradiction between them being strong and tough and beautiful and confident. Yes, it’s a wonderful thing to see.
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