Obama – a huge basketball fan, and quite a player himself – had a front row seat to the action and saw his hometown Chicago Bulls take on the Wizards.
In the end, Washington thumped Chicago, 113-90, thanks to a combined team effort that had eight players score in double figures and just complete domination of the game in the second half.
Washington’s Antawn Jamison led all scorers with 27 points and 11 rebounds, both Caron Butler and Mike James scored 14, Nick Young, Darius Songalia and Javaris Crittenton had 12.
Chicago’s John Salmons had 25 points and Ben Gordon had 11.
One would think if the 44th president could inspire the Wizards, perhaps the organization should consider getting him season tickets at courtside.
Aside from the effort Washington gave in their decisive victory, all eyes were on President Barack Obama. He arrived courtside right before tip-off, and the scene on the floor with the photographers jockeying for a spot, a large crowd excited to catch a glimpse of him, as well as players and personnel looked like a scene out of a Hollywood premiere.
Obama strolled out, grabbed his seat at the end of the court and fans showed him with cheers along with a raucous applause; therefore, he showed back the love in return.
He was the center of attention for a few minutes and when the game started, it seemed the Wizards wanted to make an impression on President Obama from the get-go.
Washington (14-44) started the game on a 12-2 run, and they dominated in the first quarter by clamping down on Chicago (26-33) with tough defense. Despite the Wizards’ effort, which had them up 27-18 after the first quarter, the Bulls came alive in the second quarter and came within five of the lead at halftime, 49-45.
Chicago was able wind up at the foul line often in that period, Washington seemed to lose momentum and allowed them to come within two points of the lead, 42-40 with less than three-and-half minutes left; however, when the second half began, the Wizards went into another gear and didn’t relinquish their lead.
They zoomed ahead 83-74 at the end of the third quarter despite a valiant effort by their opponents to stay in the game. The Wizards then demolished Chicago in the final quarter by outscoring them 30-16 and leaving the 18,114 in attendance satisfied.
At the end of the night, Washington interim head coach Ed Tapscott was thrilled with his team’s effort.
The Wizards' Antawn Jamison goes underneath the basket for a layup against Brad MIller of the Bulls during Washington's 113-90 victory over Chicago at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC on February 27, 2009. Alan P. Santos/DC Sports Box
“We got an affirming win where we did the things that we wanted to do. We have a checklist with our keys for every game. Some of our keys were to limit their transition baskets, to try to beat them on the boards, and to get some ball containment – I thought we did those things tonight.”
He also added, “Clearly having the president here and having the buzz from the crowd all led into a feeling that we fed off of.”
Despite seeing his hometown Bulls lose, Obama seemed to be in wonderful spirits as he looked to support both teams and take in the night, not only as the President of the United States of America, but a fan to the core. He left with a little less than five minutes left with Washington up with a commanding lead – 103-86 – and much like he arrived, he left with a seal of approval by fans who cheered and once again applauded him.
He is the third sitting president to ever take in a regular season game at a Washington NBA game.
Obama chatted with fans and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his first game in Washington, where he was a guest of Wizards' owner Abe Pollin and spent some time in his box during halftime. His hometown team – the Bulls – were lucky enough to spend 15 minutes at the White House and chat with the 44th President as he gave them some words of encouragement through a tough, long season.
If the city of Washington hoped to convert Obama to a Wizards fan, they put on one impressive sales pitch. The Washington players – much like the fans, were excited to have the president in the crowd. At one point, Caron Butler got the president’s attention by pumping his first in his direction. Antawn Jamison – more of a shooter than a dunking artist – had a highlight-reel-dunk in front of Obama and which amazed the president. Javal McGee – who seems to always show his incredible athleticism during a game – did a mock salute to the president after an alley-oop dunk and got his seal of approval.
Although fans and those in the media had to endure heavy security to enter the Verizon Center, everyone took it in stride as they saw Washington play one of their most impressive games all season and perhaps catch a glimpse of the man who made history.
Washington hopes to maintain their momentum as they travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks on Saturday night.