President Barack Obama, a basketball nut, is known to surround himself with former hoopsters. His Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, captained Harvard's team and still plays 3-on-3. Obama's former personal assistant, Reggie Love, won an NCAA championship while playing at Duke. Susan Rice, the national security advisor, was a star point guard in high school.
So perhaps it is not surprising that the president has developed a close bond with another former star basketball player, although this guy isn't in politics.
Jennifer Epstein details the strong bond between Obama and Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning in a new Politico feature. According to Epstein, the two men have played golf together three times since November and in March they spent time together during a weekend in the Florida Keys.
"You get caught up in the fact that he's so personable you do forget that he is the most powerful man in the world,” Mourning told Politico. "That's what he wants when he's around his friends. He doesn't want to be strictly political every time that he’s around us. I think he just wants to relax and exhale."
The two men talk about their families, basketball as well as their shared interest in helping underprivileged youth. Both men have started foundations that assist struggling children -- Obama recently launched My Brother's Keeper, an initiative aimed at helping boys and young men of color, while the Mourning Family Foundation has spent more than $10 million on programs supporting kids in South Florida.
"This is something that the president and the first lady just deeply care about and that they will continue to work on for years and years to come," Mourning told Politico of the Obamas' work with youth. "This is an amazing transition. No other president has made it more of a priority."
Mourning, a seven-time NBA All-Star who currently serves as the vice president of player programs and development for the Miami Heat, has played basketball with Obama before. But he says the president is cutting back on his hooping so as to avoid getting injured.
Mourning says he and the president have moved from the hardwood to the holes.
"It kind of fills that competitive void of basketball without the stress on the body,” Mourning told Politico of their golf outings. “It's more of a stress on the mind than it is on the body."
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