With President Barack Obama speaking at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday, our hoops guru Matt Moore took it upon himself to handicap The Greatest Presidential Pickup That Never Was.
Former President Barack Obama was always known as the Baller-In-Chief. He’s the best basketball player the Oval Office has ever seen, and the connection between Obama and the NBA was always strong when he was in office and remains so after his term ended.
But what if, Bill-and-Ted-style, Obama faced off against a long, strong defender with a history of standing his ground?
What if …
President Barack Obama played basketball vs. President Abraham Lincoln?
Let’s set the line!
ONE ON ONE, to 21 by 1’s and 2’s, make-it, take-it
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (-400, -3.5) VS. PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN (+300)
The Beard doesn’t want anything to do with 44. In a one-on-one game, if Lincoln had been born 180 years later? Sure, maybe. But going into this one, we know that Lincoln’s totally unfamiliar with the precepts of the game. Obama’s skills and mindset give him the advantage here. Let’s break it down.
Obama: 6-1, 175 lbs. Good wingspan, good athleticism per his former coaches. Has necessary speed and explosiveness to burst past David Axelrod. Not the quickest guy, according to a former opponent, but not someone you can play up on, either, risking the drive.
Lincoln: 6-4, 180 lbs. Wiry, with great wingspan. Slow lateral movement, but physical. Bony shoulders and thin frame, but built with a wrestler’s muscle profile.
Obama: Quick lefty jumpshot. Release “funky” according to a former opponent, but consistent. You can’t leave him open. Great handle — once crossed up Chris Paul. Excellent court vision and understanding of passing angles. Good finisher, understands how to operate in traffic and get to the rim, especially under GOP pressure. Well-rounded and able to adapt his game to what’s needed.
Lincoln: Plodder. Traditional big man. Doesn’t possess soft hands on account of multiple ax-related injuries. Excellent understanding of angles and how to create leverage in the post with his wrestling background. Probably confused by the invention of both the game of basketball and the net, as nylon was not invented until 1935. Tough and physical, though prone to fouls. Willing to do whatever it takes to win, no matter the cost.
Obama: Incredible leader. Knows how to get everyone involved, but also ready to deliver in the clutch (as said by former Secretary of Education and noted baller Arne Duncan). An on-floor leader, constantly offering coaching and encouragement. Establishes a positive mindset on the floor for his teammates; will let the other team know when it’s in trouble. Patient and even-keeled, with a fiery competitive spirit. Relentless with a winner’s instinct.
Lincoln: Great motivator. Resilient and determined, but prone to periods of self-doubt and malaise. Emotional player, but not expressive. Willing to throw elbows to set a tone.
The height advantage everyone would focus on wasn’t really that significant. With only an extra three inches and a wiry frame, Lincoln’s unlikely to be able to bully Obama inside the way many would expect.
Meanwhile, with Obama’s superior handle and feel for the game, he’s at a significant advantage. Lincoln’s length might be enough to force turnovers, but he’ll struggle with Obama’s range and athleticism.
Lincoln’s resilience, physicality and unconventional style might give him an early push, but eventually, over the long haul, the progressive game always wins out.
FIVE-ON-FIVE: Standard replacement pickup players evenly distributed
Obama’s team (-500, -6.5) vs. Lincoln’s team (+800)
We also give President Obama the edge in five-on-five play led by the two Presidents with average-level pickup players, with Obama’s team favored in a similar game to 21 by 5.5 points. His selfless play-style, next-level vision and ability to establish tempo leaves Lincoln’s team in the dust. Obama is more at ease in this environment, and his floor generalship shines through in a comfortable victory.