11:20 am Aug. 8, 2012
The Obama Classic has been resurrected, and will be played later this month at Chelsea Piers with some of the N.B.A.'s biggest stars.
This prospect creates its own set of issues, though. Sure, the event is likely to be well-attended, serving its purpose as a big-money fund-raiser for the president's re-election campaign. But how exactly will the participants be divided up, as described in the event promo, "into teams and compete against each other while being coached by their hardwood heroes"?
Without a good scouting report on the donors, a full accounting is impossible.
Here's a suggestion:
C Alonzo Mourning
PF Carmelo Anthony
SF Paul Pierce
SG Barack Obama
PG Rajon Rondo
Bench: Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford,Vince Carter, Steve Smith, Sheryl Swoopes
C Patrick Ewing
PF Magic Johnson
SF Joe Johnson
SG Michael Jordan
PG Kyrie Irving
Bench: Juwan Howard, Tracy McGrady, John Wall, Penny Hardaway, Dawn Staley
Team 1 offers an enticing mixture of skills. Mourning, one of the league's best defensive centers ever and elite post-up scorer, patrols the middle. Anthony has played predominantly power forward with Team U.S.A. this summer, and could offer a significant matchup problem for Magic Johnson with his quickness. Pierce provides offense, some extra rebounding out of the small forward slot, and perimeter shooting. (Obama provides this as well, of course.)
And to make sure the offensive needs of three well-known high-volume shooters in Anthony, Pierce and Obama, who better than the league's best pass-first point guard, Rondo?
The bench is similarly stacked, with Austin Rivers able to slot in for Obama, Vince Carter as solid backup for Pierce, Crawford a combo guard to give the team some added bench scoring and playmaking, Steve Smith to add defensive intensity and point-forward duties when Rondo rests, and the female Michael Jordan, Sheryl Swoopes, can help complete a lockdown second unit defensively.
That is not to suggest that Team 2 will be a pushover.
Its lineup starts with Jordan at shooting guard, instantly providing the league's best player of all time and an obvious first option to score down the stretch. It will be Jordan's responsibility to guard Obama. Nearly everyone else would probably shy away from contact with the commander in chief; the famously competitive Jordan will undoubtedly do what it takes to win.
Patrick Ewing will man the middle, with the fund-raiser finally providing him with the supporting cast he always deserved, but never received, as a member of the New York Knicks for 15 years. He'll serve as a shot-blocker and occasional jump-shooter to help unclog the middle.
Magic Johnson, who famously moved to center in the 1980 N.B.A. Finals, starts at power forward to provide a check on Anthony and some inspired passing out of the frontcourt. If Jordan is double-teamed, Joe Johnson provides a natural scoring alternative, and a defensive check on Pierce. And Kyrie Irving can score as well, while his penetration should create open jumpers for Johnson and Ewing.
Team 2's bench provides a similar point guard to Irving in John Wall, along with versatile passers in Tracy McGrady and Penny Hardaway who can slot in at either forward spot if they want to go small, or point guard if they wish to go big. Juwan Howard can add support and superior rebounding in their big lineup, which Team 1 wouldl have trouble countering. Dawn Staley, the three-time Olympian, will match Jordan's intensity and serve as defensive stopper in the backcourt.
I mean, with names like this, Obama's going to get his campaign money. They might as well make a game of it too, right?