08.24.12

Chris Bosh On the NBA Star-Studded New York City Fundraiser for Obama

Basketball stars past and present—from Michael Jordan to Walt Frazier and Kevin Durant—amassed in New York this week for an event that raised $3 million for the president. Miami Heat star Chris Bosh tells Allison Samuels about Obama’s skills on the court and more.

Miami Heat star Chris Bosh admits he loves nothing more than engaging in a fierce, hard-fought battle on the blacktop. Not surprising, given he did just win the 2012 NBA championship with his good pals Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in June. But in New York this week, Bosh said he had to take a step back from basketball and simply take in his surroundings.

On Wednesday night at Lincoln Center, Bosh and several NBA players past and present, including Michael Jordan, spent the day fundraising for President Obama in New York. An avid basketball fan, the president earned major kudos during his 2008 campaign for making a three-point shot while visiting the troops in Kuwait.

The daylong New York fundraiser, which raised more than $3 million, included autograph sessions with fans for $250 a pop and one-day clinics for two costing upward of $5,000. The $20,000 event offered an intimate afternoon dinner hosted by Jordan and featured a rather catchy NBA-themed speech by the current leader of the free world that left players feeling right at home. But the tasty meal of steak, lobster, and shrimp was only the beginning of a night to remember for Bosh and company.

After the meal ended and Obama wrapped up his rousing address, suggesting the presidential election resembled a basketball game inching toward the fourth quarter, a friendly game of hoops on the hard court began away from prying eyes and the media.

“It was pretty casual in the beginning,’’ laughs Bosh. “Our uniform was just our pants rolled up, shirtsleeves rolled up, and sneakers. Then we began to play ball. We were all in different groups, just shooting around and socializing.’’

But after few rounds of simply making baskets, the game turned a tad more serious, Bosh says. “I could tell at a certain point the president wanted a few more shots than he was getting in the game,’’ said Bosh. “He loves to play and wanted more touches, and so the competition really began to heat up. You had some young guys out there that were really balling.’’

With players on the court like Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, and Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics, Obama had to fight tooth and nail for any shot he could get.

“They did some rearranging of the groups and I just sat on the sidelines at the point,’’ laughs Bosh. “It was a good time, but I know how I am. I’m super-competitive too and a lefty like the president. He was throwing down baskets with his left hand, and I kept telling him ‘we lefties’ have to stick together. But I know how much I want to win, so I figured I’d just stand there and watch the room filled with all those amazing players young and old. I wanted to take it all in and not get upset because I missed a basket.’’

Jordan, arguably one of the most cutthroat competitors ever to play the game of basketball, never laced up his sneakers Wednesday night, according to Bosh.

“We’d still be there playing now if Jordan had gotten on the court,” he says. “We all know how he competes. I think he was just enjoying himself watching everybody else.’’

“I know how I am. I’m super-competitive too and a lefty like the president. He was throwing down baskets with his left hand, and I kept telling him ‘we lefties’ have to stick together.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBA legends Walt Frazier and Bill Bradley were also in attendance at the shoot-around.

Though Bosh had the opportunity to meet the president once last year, at a fundraiser at the home of former NBA player Alonzo Mourning, he’d never met the iconic Jordan until Wednesday night.

“To be in the room with both Jordan and President Obama was an incredible moment for me in every way,’’ says Bosh. “I sometimes have to stop and think about all the amazing opportunities I’ve had because of my career. I had this great talk with both of them about this season in the NBA and just what was going on in my life. I was amazed either of them knew who I was really or paid any attention.’’

The new NBA season is scheduled to begin in October, but the league is still resolving a lockout that could delay the season.

Recent reports indicate a major political divide in the thinking and voting habits of NBA players and NBA team owners and executives. HoopsHypes.com, a basketball website, reported earlier this week that presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney has raised more than $70,000 from the likes of Pat Riley of the Miami Heat and eight other team owners. By contrast, the president has raised about $57,000 from players such as Vince Carter and Grant Hill, as well as a few NBA coaches.

Despite those numbers, Bosh warns against reading too much into who’s giving what to whom from the NBA this campaign season. The 28-year-old maintains that isn’t the essential issue this election year.

“I believe some players will vote and support Romney, and some owners will support and vote for Obama,’’ says Bosh. “For me as an African-American man, the key thing is just voting. We learned Wednesday that about only 60 percent of people vote who have the chance, and that’s upsetting. To have the opportunity to vote and do something that so many of our ancestors didn’t have a chance to do is really unimaginable to me. For me it’s not about the political party, it’s about being a part of the process. It’s about being involved and having your vote count.’’