President Obama picks Dream Team

Updated: July 17, 2012, 4:09 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

WASHINGTON -- Add President Barack Obama to the list of people who disagree with Kobe Bryant's boast that this year's USA Olympic basketball team could beat the Dream Team of 1992.

"This is a generational thing," Obama said during a halftime interview with ESPN2 as it broadcast an exhibition game Monday night with Brazil at Washington's Verizon Center. "I was around in '92, I was a Bulls fan, so I've got to go with the original Dream Team."

Obama This is a generational thing. I was around in '92, I was a Bulls fan, so I've got to go with the original Dream Team.

-- President Barack Obama

Bryant said recently that this team -- deep and athletic with the likes of Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant -- would even beat the 1992 lineup. Its members included Hall of Fame players Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen and Chris Mullin.

"I suspect that Michael and 'Sir Charles' and others would point out they were probably never down at any point in any of their games," Obama said. "But this is a great team, unbelievable talent."

The president added: "You know, Kobe's a competitor, so you expect him to do a little trash talking whenever the opportunity arises."

Obama attended Monday night's exhibition game against Brazil.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took their seats to chants of "U-S-A" at a U.S. men's Olympic basketball exhibition game against Brazil as the loudspeakers blared Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," images that any president running for re-election would relish.

"Obviously the talent that we've got at this point is unbelievable," Obama said during a halftime interview on ESPN2. "So there's no reason that we shouldn't bring home the gold. We just have to stay focused."

Obama is an avid basketball fan and the tune-up games before the start of the London Olympics allowed him to wrap himself in the Olympic spirit four months before Election Day. His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, is expected to use the Olympics to highlight his leadership role during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Romney, who helped turn around the Salt Lake City Games after they became caught up in a bribery scandal, plans to be in London for the opening ceremonies next week. First Lady Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies.

Monday night gave Obama a chance to soak in his favorite sport.

After a quick ride to the Verizon Center from the White House, Obama greeted members of the U.S. women's basketball team on a practice court after their win over Brazil in the first game.

"We could not be prouder," Obama said after hugging Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi and other members of the women's team. The women's team presented Obama with a red No. 1 USA jersey and a signed basketball.

Obama, dressed in a blue jacket and jeans, then walked out before a roaring crowd, shook hands with fans and sat down next to former aide Reggie Love, who played basketball for Duke University.

Obama and the first lady even appeared on "Kiss Cam," the in-house video that spotlights kissing couples during a game break. The Obamas wouldn't oblige during the first half, despite roars and some boos from the crowd. But in the fourth quarter, "Kiss Cam" peered back on the first couple and the president was ready: He put his arm around his wife and planted a big kiss on the first lady as the crowd roared.

Some members of the men's team are Obama supporters. A handful of Olympic team members, including Carmelo Anthony, Durant and Chris Paul, had agreed to participate in a basketball game fundraiser for Obama's campaign last December but the event was canceled because of the resolution of the NBA lockout. The fundraising game has not been rescheduled.

Obama's campaign held a fundraiser last February at the Orlando-area home of Vince Carter of the Dallas Mavericks. Attendees included Paul, who plays point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, NBA commissioner David Stern and former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning.

Basketball has been a longtime passion of Obama's. He played high school basketball in Hawaii and likes to play pickup basketball with friends. He helps coach his daughter Sasha's youth team and keeps close tabs on his hometown Chicago Bulls.

During Veterans Day last year, he was courtside for a game between Michigan State and North Carolina on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of San Diego. In March, Obama invited British Prime Minister David Cameron to an opening round game of the NCAA tournament in Ohio.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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