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How To

How to Play Basketball with the POTUS

Don’t go easy on him. He wants games that are aggressive. Initially guys are a little careful, but when the adrenaline starts going, everyone is just playing to win. Be prepared for him to have the best players on his team. He always makes sure to get [his “body man” and former Duke basketball player] Reggie Love. When we played during the Iowa Caucus in 2008, he managed to really stack his team. And after he won, I wouldn’t give him a “nice game” high five, so he called me a sore loser and started heckling. I said I would properly congratulate him if he admitted to “stacking” his team. He didn’t. I wouldn’t. We got into it a little bit.

If you wind up guarding him, know that he’s much stronger and quicker than he looks, and he’s a good finisher. He prefers his left, so try to force him to his right and maybe give him a step. But he’s also a good shooter. He’s not pulling up from 40 feet, but maybe from 20. He makes himself a threat, but he’s not a ball hog. He knows how to get the ball to the best player. He hustles and does the dirty work: boxing out, getting on the ground for loose balls. And he’s tough. I remember when we played on the day of the Indiana and North Carolina primaries in 2008, I was going hard to the hole and I lowered my shoulder and got him in the rib. He landed badly and blacked out for a second. We were all freaking out, especially me. When he came to, he gave me this disapproving look and I felt horrifyingly guilty. He didn’t complain at all. But he still brings it up. It turned out that he ran the rest of the Presidential campaign with a bruised rib. That’s how tough he is. Bottom line: Play hard, but don’t knock out the Commander-in-Chief.

Giannoulias is a professor of political science at Northwestern University, former Illinois State Treasurer, and a regular in Presidential pick-up games.

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