Editor’s note: For the second time in as many presidential elections, ESPN’s Andy Katz was invited to play in the President Barack Obama’s traditional Election Day pick-up basketball game. In 2008, Katz was invited to play in the game by then-Senator Obama, whom he had interviewed for ESPN prior to the election. This year, Katz was asked to participate in the game again. Katz, who is in Germany for Friday’s Sears Armed Forces Classic from Ramstein Air Base, discusses this year’s experience.
I was the first one in the gym to get up some shots, just like in 2008.
It wasn’t that I needed the work (well, it didn’t hurt), but I had no other place to go. And the anticipation of being in one of the most unique pickup games made it hard to stay away any longer.
It was 11:30 a.m. CT, and the president wasn’t due for another 90 minutes at the West Side Chicago gym. Over the course of the next hour, various players started to trickle in led by former Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen and Randy Brown.
President Obama’s close friends from Chicago made their way into the gym. So, too, did former Illinois state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. (There were 20 players all together.)
Three referees were in attendance, too. Four years ago, there were four teams, no officials and no sense that there was a set order to the games.
This time, there was one game of 48 minutes, with fouls, a clock/stat crew and two benches, draped with towels and stocked with Gatorade.
Oh, and like in 2008, there were reversible jerseys donated by Obama’s good friend Marty Nesbitt, who ultimately would be opposite the president as a player-coach. continue reading…