WASHINGTON (CNN) - When President Barack Obama attended the formal installation of Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday, the two men paid homage to the rule of law, but gave particular attention to the courts - the hard courts and their respective skills thereon.
In his remarks, Obama seized on Holder's casual declaration in December that the president-elect might not be able to compete with him in roundball.
"In fact, several months ago Eric even had the audacity to comment to a reporter on my basketball skills," the president noted. "He said, and I quote, here's what he said: 'I am not sure he is ready for my New York game.' We'll see about that Mr. Attorney General."
The challenge drew howls of laughter from a packed auditorium filled with dignitaries, Washington lawyers, political supporters and Justice officials.
So did Holder's response minutes later.
"Let me just depart here and say that he is never going to see my New York game," Holder vowed. "He's got 10 years on me, he works out. I am the coach of the team on which he will be playing - nothing more than that.
"But had I been 10 years younger," Holder concluded amid wild applause.
Basketball is a favorite subject and pastime for the two, and for some of their colleagues in the administration.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine both played for Harvard, and Duncan played basketball professionally abroad. Fine, a Harvard co-captain, was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs but opted for a Rhodes scholarship.
White House aide Reggie Love played for Duke. National Security Advisor James Jones once played for Georgetown.
Among them, only Obama has made his NCAA tournament bracket picks
The installation Friday was a ceremonial event; Holder's official swearing-in took place February 3.