April 25th, 2008
10:00 AM ET
7 years ago

Indiana and North Carolina: Where basketball and politics meet

Former UNC center Eric Montross was a big backer of John Edwards' White House bid.
Former UNC center Eric Montross was a big backer of John Edwards' White House bid.

(CNN) - The pageantry, the emotion, the packed gymnasiums - basketball fanatics in Indiana and North Carolina have seen it all before.

Democrats in both primary states are beaming about their newfound roles in this extended nomination contest, but long after the bumper stickers and campaign buttons are packed away, and when the awkward sports metaphors are nothing but distant memories, Hoosiers and Tar Heels will always have that familiar sound of sneaker-on-hardwood to fall back on.

Still, with politics and hoops now crossing paths, a handful of basketball icons have become caught in the moment, stepping off the court to endorse presidential candidates this cycle.

Here's a quick look at which basketball celebrities from North Carolina and Indiana have weighed in on the 2008 race, according to Federal Election Commission data and news reports.

NORTH CAROLINA

Where else to start but with University of North Carolina legend Michael Jordan? The careful capitalist once sought to avoid politics, declaring in 1990 that "Republicans buy sneakers, too." But the greatest player of all time apparently leans Democratic - he has contributed $2,100 to another gym rat, Barack Obama.

Jordan's college coach, the vaunted Dean Smith, kept his money close to Chapel Hill this primary season, maxing out his contributions to former North Carolina senator John Edwards. Former UNC center Eric Montross (remember him?) also gave $4,600 to Edwards.

Edwards, a UNC law school alumnus and Tar Heel fan, has been spotted at a few North Carolina basketball games since leaving the race.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, a longtime Republican, has yet to officially weigh in on the race, but he has been spotted with John McCain. In 2006, Coach K - who is also the head coach of the men's U.S. national team - invited the Arizona senator to speak to the basketball squad about his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Former Duke stars Shane Battier and Grant Hill are both Obama backers - each has maxed out their primary donations to the Illinois senator.

No high-profile alumni from the Tobacco Road powerhouses of Wake Forest and North Carolina State appear to have contributed campaign cash to a presidential candidate this cycle.

As for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, the team's owner is BET mogul Bob Johnson, a high-profile Hillary Clinton backer.

INDIANA

Indiana University legend Calbert Cheaney, a native of Evansville, has endorsed Obama and is campaigning for him in the state. His legendary coach at Indiana, Bobby Knight, hasn't weighed in during the current cycle, but he was a George W. Bush donor in 2004.

NBA star Greg Oden, who played high school ball in Indianapolis and was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 2006, endorsed Obama earlier this year on his blog, saying, "He is a very nice man and I am a big fan."

Notre Dame alum and current Chicago Bulls general manager John Paxson gave $500 to Edwards.

Mel and Herb Simon, co-owners of the Indiana Pacers, each contributed $4,600 to Clinton's campaign. Mel Simon also gave $4,600 to Bill Richardson, and Herb Simon gave $2,300 to Chris Dodd.

Indiana basketball icons like French Lick native Larry Bird and former Purdue coach Gene Keady have not weighed in on the presidential race. Nor have voters heard from Hoosier heroes Keith Smart or Steve Alford, who are probably content to keep their sterling legacies intact among Indiana fans.

What do these endorsements mean? Given the track record of celebrity endorsements this election cycle, probably not much. At least not until Serge Zwikker, Randolph Childress and Tom Coverdale weigh in.

– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby


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soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. Herman LA, CA

    There is ONE question we all should be asking our selves

    Which candidate takes lobbyists and Pac monies?

    If the voters answer that one question to them selves then the answer should be clear with out a doubt that who can move this country forward and get thing done in Washington for the people who put them in office and be held accountable to the people of the United States. Just in some of you voters don’t know I will list them in order below

    Barack Obama – None

    April 25, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  2. Sharon from B.C.

    Another debate is a waste of time and only free advertising for Clinton. She talks about being outspent. She did not have the money.

    April 25, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  3. Katy

    OBAMA TO THE RESCUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 25, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  4. Robert in Toronto,ON

    Hopefully both basketball states will recognize a winner when they see him...yes, I mean Barack Obama.

    And go Tar Heels! (my favorite college bball school) :)

    April 25, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  5. Aces full of Kings

    Tim, I agree, the race is over. We need to brush her aside and move on to the issues and start dealing with McCain. Hillary has shown she would not make an effective president, so I say we should ignore her and move on to the General. She has lost. Bring it on, John, whatcha got?

    April 25, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  6. jj

    It amazes me that if Clinton is ahead, or if she wins the nomination, then SHE IS STEALING IT, why??? Crooked Caucus' , selective memory blocks about the good Bill Clinton did for EVERYONE but himself, he did something totally stupid for himself, but others had it one heck of a lot better than they do now, that's for sure. No one will STEAL THE NOMINATION, Obama or Clinton, Hopefully they will pick one who can and will win in November. It's not about now, it's about November. There are going to be people who will go to McCain if they are really against one person for some reason you can not stop that. That's why this is America., you get a choice but we need to fix the primary mess we made. Make it simpler and vote, no caucus' and all within one week after 6 months only of all the hype.

    April 25, 2008 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. An American in Canada

    ALL POSITIVE COMMENTS FROM HILLARY SUPPORTERS ARE EITHER SENT INTO PURGOTORY "YOUR COMMENT IS AWAITING MODERATOR" AND THEN ARE DELETED BECAUSE OF PRO-CLINTON

    AND THAT MAKES US WORK EVEN HARDER OUTSIDE THE REALM TO GET CLINTON ELECTED....

    THAT WILL NOT STOP HILLARY R. CLINTON FROM BEING THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF AMERICA.

    ALL BABY BOOMERS IN INDIANA COME OUT AND SUPPORT HILLARY R. CLINTON, THE ONLY CANDIDATE WHO HAS THE EXPERIENCE TO DELIVER!

    April 25, 2008 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  8. Kev

    Hopefully, Obama struts his stuff on the court, instead of the bowling alley this time around. If I know Carolina and the Hoosier State, they will eat it up.

    If there is one thing Indianans (?) love more than basketball, it's John Cougar Mellencamp!

    April 25, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  9. no liar can lead us...

    look at the maths indi and nc,a liar and sniper fire shall not enter the kingdom,the maths is that the other candi just cannot win even if one adds up flo and mich,at the end and add the caucauses BARACK is still a winner,lets get it stright and make that vote we are castin count knowin that is goes to a winner andhave our party move forward havin ppl tryin to be there for personal greed,NO EMPIRE SHALL STAND.love u all demo...peace.

    April 25, 2008 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
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