Barack Obama photo

Interview With Marv Albert of Turner Network Television (TNT)

May 22, 2010

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?

The President: 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?

The President: Well it is true I usually have guys with guns around.

Marv Albert: Yeah, I noticed.

The President: 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?

The President: 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 --

The President: 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]

The President: 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?

The President: 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?

The President: 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.

The President: 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?

The President: 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?

The President: 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?

The President: 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?

The President: 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.

The President: -- 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.

The President: 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.

The President: Charles is a great guy, great friend but that's, it's a scary golf swing. [Laughter]

Barack Obama, Interview With Marv Albert of Turner Network Television (TNT) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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