While basketball may be President Barack Obama’s main game, he’s quite the athlete-in-chief — his wife and kids are pretty sporty, too.
Most past presidents have had a sport of choice: Richard Nixon loved to bowl and installed the White House bowling alley; Bill Clinton played golf; John F. Kennedy liked touch football; George W. Bush was a mountain biker. And while basketball may be thought of as President Barack Obama’s main game, a look at the first 18 months of his presidency (and a little bit before) reveals that he’s quite the athlete-in-chief — his wife and kids are pretty sporty, too.
Here, POLITICO takes a look at the Obamas’ sporting life.
Obama, a power forward, often shoots hoops on the South Lawn of the White House, where he had a basketball court specially installed. He’s played with his staff, including former Duke basketball player Reggie Love, his daughters, and members of his administration — like the 6-foot-5-inch Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The family has taken in a number of basketball games as spectators, too. Obama was at the Verizon Center in January to catch the Duke-Georgetown game (he even visited announcers in the CBS booth). Shortly after moving into the White House, he caught his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls, play the Washington Wizards at the arena. More recently, Obama had a basketball double-header: he caught Washington’s WNBA team, the Mystics, at the Verizon Center with Sasha (who wore the team’s jersey) after playing a game of his own with an Army team at Fort McNair.
Obama’s love of the game is apparently contagious. While in Los Angeles in June, the first lady took her mother and daughters to watch the Lakers play in Game Six of the NBA Finals. (Sasha and Malia brought home a jersey signed by Lakers coach Phil Jackson for Father’s Day.)
And don’t forget Obama’s brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, the head coach at Oregon State University. The entire family watched the Beavers take on George Washington University in November.
Both FLOTUS and POTUS like to volley.
While appearing on “The Jay Leno Show” last October, Michelle told Leno that there’s nothing about Barack that bothers her, calling him “perfect.” Except for one thing: when he beats her at tennis. “He beats me quite often,” she said. “That gets to be pretty annoying.”
The competition between the couple most certainly comes out on vacation. Last month, while vacationing in Maine, the first family visited the Bar Harbor Club to hit the court. During their vacation last summer on Martha’s Vineyard, the family played on the private tennis court nestled into their rental property. In Hawaii last Christmas, the first couple played at the Kailua Racquet Club, too.
Daughters Sasha and Malia resisted tennis at first, Michelle Obama recently told Ladies’ Home Journal. “But now they’re starting to get better, and they actually like it,” she said.
When not playing with the family, Michelle has also played on several occasions with her chief of staff—and pal—Susan Sher. (And since we’re on the topic, her garden even contains tennis ball lettuces.)
Safe to say Obama’s arms are better at throwing up three-pointers than tossing out pitches. In April, President Obama threw the first pitch at Nationals Park “a little high and outside,” as he described it. Last summer, at the All-Star game, he also threw a ceremonial pitch: the ball barely made it to the plate.
Still, he’s a fan. Obama frequently wears Chicago White Sox gear—even when the Nationals are involved. He wore his Sox cap for his pitch in April; in June, he cheered on the South Side Chicago team, again wearing his cap, as they played the Nats.
Michelle Obama seems to like the sport too. She and Jill Biden joined Yogi Berra as he threw out the opening pitch at Game 1 of the World Series last year. FLOTUS has also visited Camden Yards in Baltimore, where she pitched and caught and hung out with kids at a “Let’s Move” event.
Obama may not be as golf-crazed as some presidents, but as of last month, he’d played 41 rounds since taking office. During a two-month stretch earlier this year, he played golf eight out of nine weekends. While in Washington, he heads to the course at Andrews Air Force Base, often with White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson. And as with tennis, he uses his vacation time to play, too. He hit the green multiple times in Hawaii over Christmas and last summer in Martha’s Vineyard.
It’s fair to call Obama a soccer dad. He and Michelle are frequently spotted on the weekends cheering on both daughters, who play here in town.
Actually, let’s not go there. Who can forget Obama’s dismal game during the Pennsylvania primary, when he bowled a 37 with repeated gutter balls? That’s one sport Obama should drop.