Former President Barack Obama joined former VP Joe Biden on the campaign trail during the final weekend ahead of the 2020 presidential election. And a moment of levity during a visit to Flint, Michigan, has gone viral.
The former commander-in-chief showed off his basketball skills by casually sinking a three-point shot as the team prepared to head out, prompting verbal exclamations from the impressed staffers.
Biden’s traveling digital director, Olivia Raisner, shared the short clip to Twitter just before 6:30 p.m. on October 31 and it spread quickly. As of this writing, the video had racked up more than 17 million views.
Here’s what you need to know:
Obama Reposted the Video Along With a Message Encouraging People to Vote
As New York Times writer Sopan Deb pointed out on Twitter, the shot would not have been easy considering Obama was wearing dress shoes and a jacket at the time. It’s also safe to assume he had not been warming up before taking the shot.
After sinking the 3-pointer, Obama immediately turns to continue heading out of the gym and accepts what appears to be a coffee cup from a staffer as someone calls, “Walk off!” Obama responds by proclaiming, “That’s what I do!” Before saying it a second time, Obama pulls his mask down below his mouth to be better heard.
Biden, also wearing a mask, then walks into the frame still exclaiming, “Whoa!” Obama shared a slightly longer version of the clip to his own Twitter account which shows Biden twice calling out, “All net!” Obama jokingly responds, “You don’t understand!”
Obama used the clip to encourage people to vote. He wrote, “Shoot your shot” and posted a link to IWillVote.com. The site, which is funded by the Democratic National Committee, provides information such as polling locations and a tool that allows people to verify voter registration status.
NBA star LeBron James was among the fans who commented on Obama’s shot. James joked on Twitter, “Now you just showing out now my friend!! That’s what you do huh?? Ok ok I see. All cash! 👌🏾”
Actor Mark Hamill also shared the video and wrote, “Now let’s make this Tuesday a #SwishNoBackboard!”
Obama Was on a Championship Basketball Team in High School
Obama is a lifelong basketball player. He played on both the JV and varsity teams during his teenage years at the Punahou School, a private prep school in Honolulu, in the late 1970s. As NBC News reported in 2017, Obama’s teammates and coaches called him “Barry.”
One of Obama’s old teammates, Darin Maurer, told the network he and “Barry” never started any games. But the two of them continued to practice as often as they could. Maurer recalled the two of them would find a park after practice and keep playing. Teammate Tom Topolinski remembered Obama’s outside jumper. “Barry was a very confident player who liked to drive to the basket. He also liked to take outside shots and sometimes he got really hot.”
Obama was on the 1979 team that won Hawaii’s state championship. According to Sports Illustrated, Obama played in the title game. He scored one basket and missed one free throw.
Obama was #23 as a high school player. A jersey he was believed to have worn sold for $120,000 at a Dallas auction in August 2019, the Associated Press reported.
Obama Played Pickup Games Against NBA Players at the White House
Obama has connected with people through his love of the game. When Obama was starting his political career as a community organizer in Chicago, he got to know voters in the South Side of the city by playing hoops with them, as Sports Illustrated explained in a 2009 feature. The magazine also reported that Obama’s basketball knowledge had also helped him to relate to voters in states such as Indiana and North Carolina.
Obama continued to find the time for pickup games after reaching elected office. While serving as a senator in mid-2008, he famously sunk a 3-point shot during a trip to the Middle East. He took the shot after addressing the troops inside a gym in Kuwait. The video is embedded above and can also be seen here.
Obama had regular pickup games at the White House after becoming president. As GQ reported, Obama used to invite NBA professionals to play with him. Obama’s 49th birthday involved a pickup game with players including LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Carmelo Anthony, Grant Hill, Chris Paul, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose, as Obama’s campaign treasurer Marty Nesbitt recalled in an interview with the magazine.
Once pickup game from November 2010 made headlines. Obama famously had to get 12 stitches in his lip after he was elbowed in the face during a game. CBS News reported that Rey Decerega, the director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, accidentally elbowed Obama in the face as Decerega turned to shoot the ball.