Origin Of Obama, Hawaii, Basketball Nexus

On January 1, 2009, in Articles, Videos, by Baller-in-Chief

(From The Black Fives Blog) For Christmas, I gave my mother-in-law Dreams from My Father, the best-selling book by president-elect Barack Obama. I had been meaning to get that book for myself, even more lately after the specific urging of my friend Alexander Wolff from Sports Illustrated. He explained there is a section in the […]

(From The Black Fives Blog)

Dreams From My Father

For Christmas, I gave my mother-in-law Dreams from My Father, the best-selling book by president-elect Barack Obama.

I had been meaning to get that book for myself, even more lately after the specific urging of my friend Alexander Wolff from Sports Illustrated.

He explained there is a section in the book where Obama describes getting his first basketball, a Christmas gift from his father.

Barack Obama and fatherObama got his first basketball
during this visit by his father.

And I could play basketball with a consuming passion that would always exceed my limited talent. My father’s Christmas gift had come at a time when the University of Hawaii basketball team had slipped into the national rankings on the strength of an all-black starting five that the school had shipped in from the mainland. That same spring, Gramps had taken me to one of their games, and I had watched the players in warm-ups, still boys themselves but to me poised and confident warriors, chuckling to each other about some inside joke, glancing over the heads of fawning fans to wink at the girls on the sidelines, casually flipping layups or tossing high-arcing jumpers until the whistle blew and the centers jumped and the players joined in furious battle.

I decided to become part of that world, and began going down to a playground near by grandparents’ apartment after school.

I got the book for my mother-in-law because, they say, you get what you give.

As she unwrapped that gift, I began unwrapping another gift — this one from my brother who lives in Hawaii.

Brothers in HawaiiMy older brother Lawrence (r.) showing
my visiting younger brother Charles
around Oahu last week.

Brothers in HawaiiCharles (r.) rides too. Here they roll up on Waikiki Beach.

Lawrence is a military vet who works for a government defense contractor out there. He started with them at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga., but a few years ago they permanently re-deployed him to Oahu (poor guy).

Lawrence loves it out there (who wouldn’t?) and stays active in the community.

He formed the Hawaii Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers & Troopers of America Motorcycle Club, an African American riding organization (the Hawaii Chapter has a Facebook group here).

I opened Lawrence’s gift to me.

It was an autographed copy of a new DVD about the University of Hawaii’s magical, legendary, and nationally-ranked basketball team of the early 1970s!

I didn’t realize that “you get what you give” worked so quickly!

This DVD, a documentary film entitled “The Fabulous Five: The Story Of The Fabulous Years,” is a wonderful historical glimpse at the University of Hawaii Rainbows team, its players, the community, and the fan frenzy that surrounded their games.

Fabulous Five DVD

After watching it, you’ll say, “No wonder the young Barack Obama was so impressed.”

My copy of the DVD is autographed by former Rainbows players Dwight Holiday and Jerome “Hook” Freeman.

Lawrence ran into them at an event promoting the recently released film, and, thinking of me and Black Fives, got me the DVD as a Christmas gift.

You have to learn more about this team!

The Honolulu Advertiser wrote this in 2006:

The 1970-71 team had a 23-5 record and played in the National Invitational Tournament. That was the first time a Hawai’i basketball team got invited to the postseason.

The following season, every home game at the Honolulu International Center was a sellout, and Hawai’i finished with a 24-3 record. The team was ranked as high as No. 12 in the nation, and became the first UH team to get invited to the NCAA Tournament.

And this perspective from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

Hawaii’s “Fabulous Five” of 1970-72 made an impact on Hawaii sports that is still being felt today.

The 1972 University of Hawaii men’s basketball team was the first to get an invitation to the NCAA tournament, marking the first time the nation was really forced to pay attention to the state, and raising the expectations of Hawaii fans.

Here’s more on the DVD, from Hawaii’s ESPN Radio 1420:

Longtime University of Hawaii basketball fans fondly remember the “Fabulous Five” years: the UH band playing “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the tall afros and, yes, the famous aloha print shorts. The memories of this bygone era are expertly rekindled in the DVD documentary, The Fabulous Five – The Story of the Fabulous Years.

Presented by Time Warner Oceanic Cable and former Fabulous Five member Dwight Holiday, the documentary includes interviews with every member of the Fabulous Five – Holiday, Bob Nash, Jerome Freeman, Al Davis and John Penebacker – as well as their head coach, Red Rocha, and other players on the team. Hosted by ESPN 1420’s Don Robbs, the DVD also features insights from local luminaries such as Danny Kaleikini, Les Keiter, Tom Moffatt, Robert Kekaula, Joe Moore, Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona.

The film is simply awesome. A lot of game action. Poignant player and fan insights.

And you have to love the Hawaii print shorts (!) and the old school Adidas Superstars and Converse Pro Leathers.

University of Hawaii collageUniversity of Hawaii’s “Fabulous Five” in action during the early 1970s (collage courtesy of the Honolulu Advertiser).

But also, I want you to appreciate the connection.

It’s clear that president-elect Barack Obama is passionate about basketball. The game has played a major role in his life.

He wouldn’t be the kind of person he is today if it weren’t for hoops.

Obama’s love affair with basketball, as told in his own words, started with these University of Hawaii Rainbows of 1970-72.

They made the most of their moment, and left a lifelong impression not just on Obama but on everyone.

That means this is a must-see film. (Get it here.) And Dreams from My Father is a must-read book.

Thanks to Alex Wolff and my bro’, I was able to make this connection. Now you can too.

Naturally, I would also recommend that you visit Hawaii at some point; it’s such a great place and even more cool now than ever.

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