New York Knicks: Obama Classic
August, 22, 2012
By Jared Zwerling | ESPNNewYork.com
There's only one person in the world who could organize the biggest star-studded pickup basketball event, featuring current and former NBA players.
That would be Barack Obama, and it happened on Wednesday afternoon at New York City's Chelsea Piers sports and entertainment complex, which supported the President's re-election campaign for 2012.
Carmelo Anthony was on hand for the basketball skills camp ($5,000 for two tickets), as well as Knicks coach Mike Woodson. In addition, ex-Knick Patrick Ewing was there. (No media was allowed inside.)
"It's always an honor to be included in these types of events," Anthony told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday. "So much of my life is basketball, but when I am able to give back in this way, it's fulfilling. It's really cool to be a part of such an important movement."
Anthony, Woodson and Ewing were joined by these other headline NBAers: Harrison Barnes, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Nick Collison, Jamal Crawford, Juwan Howard, Kyrie Irving, Dahntay Jones, Brandon Knight, Alonzo Mourning, Chandler Parsons, Austin Rivers, Rajon Rondo, Steve Smith and John Wall. WNBA player Keisha Hampton also participated, as well as former lady ballers Sheryl Swoopes and Dawn Staley.
The "Obama Classic," also included an autograph signing event ($250 per person) at Lincoln Center. In the evening, Michael Jordan, along with his fiancee, Yvette Prieto, co-hosted a $20,000 per-plate dinner on a stage in the Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. Out of the 120 guests, notables included former Knicks greats Ewing and Walt Frazier, Hall of Famer Bill Bradley, NBA commissioner David Stern and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Afterward, Obama acknowledged Jordan, Stern and Duncan -- "an outstanding basketball player in his own right" -- at the top of his remarks, and he noted the two Knicks legends in the house.
"This is my dream team," Obama said. "It is very rare I come to an event where I’m like the fifth or sixth most interesting person. Usually people want to take a picture with me, sit next to me, talk to me. That has not been the case at this event."
Anthony has been an outspoken advocate for Obama, attending a $35,800-per-ticket Democratic event last year and posting testimonials on YouTube in 2008 after he was elected and inaugurated. Melo previously laced them up with the President in 2010 in Washington, D.C., for a benefit hoops game to honor wounded troops and participants in the White House’s mentoring program.
After the dinner, a motorcade departed Alice Tully Hall for another part of the center, the Jazz at Lincoln Center, for a private basketball shootaround. In addition to two winners from a fundraising contest, POTUS attended (including Obama) and a few select NBA players.
"There were lots of laughs and jokes," Anthony said. "But we were on our best behavior. The President was in the room, and Barack's got game! He knows what he's doing. He is comfortable on the court."
During the summer in mid-July, Obama and his wife, Michelle, came to root on Anthony and Team USA at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., when they beat Brazil. Two weeks later, Michelle attended their win over France in London, and gave each player and coach a hug after the game.
"To have the support of our President is amazing," Anthony said. "I mean, he is running a country and takes a moment to come support. That means a lot. So how could we not support him? And having his wife Michelle there was also very incredible. She's so down to earth and encouraging. It was cool."
You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.