NBA Stars to Hoop It Up for Obama's Cause

Loose Ball: Coming up short in a fundraising battle, the Obama campaign looks to ballers for a boost.

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Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose with President Obama (Pete Souza/White House)

(The Root) -- In 2010, as part of the celebration for his 49th birthday, President Obama played a pickup basketball game with luminaries such as LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell and Dwyane Wade. The game was played at Obama's favorite local court -- D.C.'s Fort McNair -- not counting the one he had built at the White House upon moving in.

On Tuesday, three days after his 51st birthday, came word of another hoop-dreams treat that will also serve as a fundraiser. The Obama Classic will be held in New York on Aug. 22 and will feature Michael Jordan and several NBA stars, including Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo and John Wall, in a shootaround. Jordan and NBA commissioner David Stern will also co-host a $20,000-per-person dinner with the president that evening.

The Obama campaign didn't forget about the folks with less disposable income, who are welcome to donate and win a chance to participate in the event. "Imagine shooting hoops with Carmelo Anthony, Patrick Ewing, Sheryl Swoopes, Kyrie Irving and Alonzo Mourning," Deputy National Field Director Marlon Marshall wrote in an email to supporters. "Oh, and you'll get to meet President Obama and Michael Jordan over dinner, too.

"Now stop dreaming and make it happen. You and a guest of your choice could join President Obama and some of the greatest basketball stars for a special night at the Obama Classic. Pitch in $3 or whatever you can, and you'll be automatically entered for a chance to win."

Obama's love affair with basketball is well-known, dating to his time at Honolulu's Punahou School, where he played on the varsity team. He has sat courtside at NBA games, a college game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson and a Team USA exhibition game. He was also guest of honor at a $30,000-per-person fundraiser at the home of NBA star Vince Carter during All-Star Weekend in February.

The NBA work stoppage had ended a couple of months earlier, and Obama thanked Stern, who was also in attendance, for ensuring that there would be a season. "I don't know what I would be doing with myself if I at least didn't have some basketball games around," Obama said.

If the work stoppage had lasted longer, we would have seen the original Obama Classic. That exhibition game-fundraiser was scheduled for Dec. 12 in Washington and had commitments from Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, among others. It was postponed when the NBA players reached a labor agreement with the league.

Unlike that planned event, inspired by the myriad summer-league games featuring NBA players last year, this month's event won't include an actual game. But how much reason do you need to put the baller in chief together with NBA stars when it's a good cause: his re-election!

Deron Snyder's Loose Ball column appears regularly on The Root. Follow him on Twitter and reach him at BlackDoor Ventures, Inc.

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