news 2 weeks ago

Barack Obama makes surprise appearance at NBA All-Star Weekend to pitch in during a charity event

Chicago Tribune — By DeAntae Price Chicago Tribune

Feb. 14-- CHICAGO-Former President Barack Obama walked into a small, cordoned off section of Wintrust Arena for an NBA Cares service event and received a familiar greeting as cheers, smiles and outstretched hands surrounded him.

Every person in attendance was prepped in advance of Obama's arrival. Security detail swept the space and cameras were fixed prior to his entrance.

Obama had done his homework, too. He worked the room and dropped stats and sports references, bonding with players, coaches and children on hand for the event.

Once Obama settled in, he was flanked by Hawks guard Trae Young and Pelicans forward Zion Williamson on an assembly line to pack backpacks with school supplies. Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr., who shook hands and exchanged words with Obama, stood by in awe of the 44th president.

"It was definitely nice," Carter said, "just knowing that he was one of the presidents of these United States. The fact that he was so cordial, taking pictures with everybody, talking with everybody-it shows how good of a person he is, so that was definitely a lot of fun."

Carter, Williamson and Young were on hand to participate in media day for the Rising Stars game, which will be played at the United Center on Friday night. For all three players, the only thing more shocking than meeting Obama was hearing his basketball knowledge.

Carter, who has dealt with injuries often in his two-year career, received encouraging words from Obama about his latest ailment, a high ankle sprain that has kept him out since Jan. 6 and will prevent him from playing in the Rising Stars game.

"He knew what college I went to, knew that I played for the Bulls and was wishing that I'd get healthy soon," Carter said. "It shows how big of a basketball head he is. It was pretty neat."

Williamson and Young had more face time with Obama than any other players and both came away with similar experiences. Each player raved about the details he casually dropped about their basketball careers.

"It was even crazier when he started talking about my Duke games, him being at the game when my shoe blew out," Williamson said. "He was even talking about my recent games. I'm like, 'Man, you're keeping up with me?' "

Young echoed Williamson, and shared that Obama has faith the Hawks-15-24 and sitting at the bottom of the East-can turn things around.

"He just loves watching me," Young said. "He watches me all the time and was telling me how it's going to turn for the Hawks in the future and it's crazy that he just knew all these different things about me."

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