Obama pays tribute to Carmelo, the Bulls and ‘Senator’ Todd Akin

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At his rescheduled "Obama Classic" event at Lincoln Center last night, President Obama gave shout-outs to Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier, and Missouri Republican Todd Akin.

"Recently, some of you have been paying attention to the commentary of the senator of Missouri, Mr. Akin, who—the interesting thing here is that this is an individual who sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology, but somehow missed science class," Obama said, to laughter from the crowd.

"But it’s representative of a desire to go backwards instead of forwards," Obama said, "and to fight fights that we thought were settled 20, 30 years ago."

(Akin is actually a congressman from Missouri; he won a primary to challenge Senator Claire McCaskill last week, and has vowed to stay in the race despite an uproar over his comments about "legitimate rape.")

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The dinner at Alice Tully Hall was the capstone of a full day of basketball-related events, which featured an autograph session and a skills clinic with some current and former NBA players, follwed by a dinner and informal shoot-around with the president. 

The events were billed separately, with about 400 people paying $250 each for the autograph session, and 100 people attending the skills clinic, which was $5,000 for two people. The dinner and shootaround, hosted by Jordan, cost $20,000 per person.

Obama was introduced at the dinner by Jordan, who was joined on stage by N.B.A. Commissioner David Stern, according to pool reports, and he gave a basketball-themed version of his stump speech.

In talking about foreign policy, he snuck in a mention of Anthony, who was in the crowd, along with a number of former Knicks, like Patrick Ewing and Bill Bradley.

"When it comes to how we deal with other countries, I’m very proud that America is stronger and more respected around the world, and we saw—some of you were at the London Olympics—Carmelo and some other folks were there," he said, as the crowd applauded. "Way to bring home the gold. We appreciate that."

Obama compared his "trendy" 2008 campaign to the Bulls' bandwagon in the 1990s, and invoked Jordan's legendary competitiveness as a model for putting away Mitt Romney.

"I can't resist a basketball analogy: we are in the 4th quarter, we're up by a few points, but the other side is coming strong and they play a little dirty," he said.

(Obama did not mention the Pistons.)  

"We've got a few folks on our team in foul trouble. We've got a couple of injuries. And I believe that they've got one last run in them, and I'd say there's about seven minutes to go in the game. 

"And Michael's competitiveness is legendary, and nobody knows better than Michael that if you've got a little bit of lead and there's about seven minutes to go, that's when you put them away. That's when you stop any momentum they have. You don't let them up from the mat.  You don't give them any hope that they might pull this out. You don't leave it to a lucky shot they might make from half-court at the end.

"You go ahead and you pour it on. You might press them a little bit. You might put Pippen and Jordan on the front court, trap them a little bit; have Horace come in. You don't let up. That's how the Bulls won six. That's how we're going to win this election."

The after-dinner shootaround was closed to the press, but a subsequent pool report said the president's team hadn't won.