Has there ever been a basketball-loving President of the United States of America? I decided to do some research to find out.
Has there ever been a basketball-loving President of the United States of America?
I decided to do some research to find out.
Benjamin Harrison was the sitting President when James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, but that’s about as close as he gets.
Teddy Roosevelt comes close.
He attended a five-week course in Physical Education at Harvard University’s Summer School of Arts and Sciences taught by Dudley Allen Sargent, whose later student, Luther Gulick, was Naismith’s boss at the International Y.M.C.A. Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts (now Springfield College).
“Go invent a game,” Gulick probably shouted.
That course at Harvard is the same course Edwin Henderson took, in which he learned the game of basketball. Henderson promptly introduced the game to Negro school children in D.C., the first time basketball was introduced to African Americans on a wide scale basis.
Roosevelt became President in 1901 and in that role laid the cornerstone of the 12th Street Colored Y.M.C.A. building in Washington, D.C. in 1908. That’s where the famed Washington 12 Streeters all-black basketball team was formed by Henderson.
Roosevelt also helped celebrate the construction in D.C. of black-built and black-owned True Reformer’s Hall, the home court of the 12 Streeters when they won a Colored Basketball World’s Championship in 1911. Roosevelt’s personal congratulatory letter (about the Hall) included this statement:
No one can watch with more interest than I do the progress of the colored race; and with the colored man as with the white man, the first step must be to show his ability to take care of himself and those dependent on him.
The N.C.A.A.’s Theodore Roosevelt Award is given annually to former student athletes who became famous distinguished citizens. The “Teddy” has been awarded to 4 former presidents: Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, George Bush I, and Ronald Reagan.
Warren Harding could have been a baller; he wore size 14 shoes, the largest shoe size of any President. Instead he was a baseball and boxing fan.
There’ve been plenty of good athletes in the White House.
Dwight Eisenhower played football in college at West Point. Nixon played college football. Ford was on the University of Michigan varsity football team in the 1930s, getting invited to tryouts with the Packers and Lions. Bush I played baseball at Yale.
But they weren’t ballers.
There’ve been some good ballers.
Bill Bradley, the former New York Knicks star, was a candidate for the Presidency in 2000 and would have made a fine Baller-In-Chief.
Bob Dole would have made an excellent Baller-In-Chief as a former star basketball player in high school and at Kansas University under legendary coach Phog Allen.
But they never made it to the White House.
George Bush II came close to being Baller-In-Chief the day he congratulated the 2004 N.B.A. Champion Detroit Pistons at the White House.
According to the White House Museum, the White House basketball court, a kind of First Court if you will, has “been used for decades for occasional games by presidents and their staffs and families.”
I could be wrong, but I think the First Court is gonna get dusted off and put into good use. I think it’s gonna have a roof put on it, for year-round action.
Better yet, how ’bout an indoor court?
I think that’s the first order of business for a Baller-In-Chief.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress (White House basketball court) and the White House (George W. Bush congratulating Pistons).