Obama's Game

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Here he is playing basketball back in the day (he's Number 23). He missed a free throw:

Marshall Poe recalls playing pick-up games with him. Money quote:

I remember him well for several reasons. First, his name. “Baruch” means “blessed” or something in Hebrew, and a Jewish friend of mine had just taught me the Shabbis blessing of the wine for fun (we used to drink a lot in those days, and a little ancient ritual made drinking that much better). I recall thinking it was an interesting name for an African American to have, and wondered about Obama’s background. Second, as I’ve said, he was part of a crew of "law school guys" (as opposed, say, to the “business school guys”). Finally, Barack had game, and he was even then a natural leader. He was tall (I’d say about six-four), but very thin, and this shaped his style of play. He couldn’t really hold his own in the paint, but he had good ups and would snatch rebounds over slightly shorter and heavier players in a graceful motion that reminded me of Karem. He was relatively fast and agile, but had no outside game that I recall.

I do remember him bringing up the ball from time to time, which was probably not a good idea (though I don’t think he had a bad handle). It suggested that he wanted to be in charge (I did the same thing sometimes, much to the chagrin of my teammates).

The game was full of what you might mildly call “personalities,” and fights of various sorts often broke out (usually over bad calls). Lots of yelling and anger. Barack participated, as did pretty much everyone, but I don’t recall him really going off on anyone. He was active in arguing, but he didn’t loose his cool. He often played the role of conciliator. He had (and has) a great, rich baritone voice that commanded respect and a nearly continual fetching grin, a real “thousand watt” smile. He was a winning personality, and respected for his opinion, even though he wasn’t one of the best players.

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