Want Access to Obama? Learn to Play Basketball

Washington is a funny place. It wasn’t so long ago that people were learning to ride mountain bikes, in hopes of being one of the chosen few to join George W. Bush on one of his rides here in Washington or at his Texas ranch. Now, ESPN’s Wright Thompson has a pretty great piece on how the powerful in Washington are picking up the game of basketball, all in hopes of shooting hoops with the most famous baller in town, President Obama. There’s Rep. Baron Hill, a former high school basketball star, working on his jump shots. "I stayed away from the game," the five-term Democrat tells ESPN, "and here I am shooting hoops again. And it's because of him. If I ever have an opportunity to play with him, I want to be able to halfway get around that court well enough." And then there’s all the Cabinet secretaries in training, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Lobbyists, members of Congress and reps at trade industry groups are all taking lessons. Even the junior staffers at the White House have their own pickup game. But as Thompson notes, the actual invites to play with Obama are still pretty hard to come by and mostly come through his body guy, former Duke basketball star Reggie Love. Here’s Thompson:

The invites to play with the Baller-in-Chief have been scarce. Mostly friends and staff -- the old Chicago crew. "The only thing that's changed is we're playing at Camp David," cracks (Arne) Duncan, who has known the president for years.The secretary and some staff at Interior got a run, as did some old buddies of Love's. Arizona Cardinals QB Kurt Warner got an invitation, as did at least one member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The mayor of Washington got a run. Everyone else is angling. Love apparently keeps a list of names in case he needs extras. If you don't have Love's extension, there's another, more circuitous road. Play with an Obama confidant -- and play really well.