February 14th, 2014
03:06 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama talks a little health care, a lot of hoops in NBA All-Star Game interview

Updated 9:00pm, February 16th

(CNN) -  President Barack Obama praised a football player for revealing he’s gay and took ownership of the term “Obamacare” in a wide-ranging interview with TNT sports analyst and former hoops star Charles Barkley before Sunday's 63rd NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans.

Obama said he respects Michael Sam, a former college football player who announced he is gay last week during interviews with ESPN and the New York Times, for making the announcement before the NFL draft.

"I really like the fact that Michael did it before the draft because his attitude was, 'You know what? I know who I am. I know I can play great football. Judge me on the merits,’" Obama said.

The President, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama sent tweets of encouragement for Sam.

Barkley also asked the President about the Affordable Care Act and whether he minds the term ‘Obamacare,’ given all the criticism of the law.

"I like it. I don't mind. And I tell you, in five years from now when everybody's saying, 'Man, I'm sure glad we got health care,' there are going to be a whole bunch of people who don't call it Obamacare anymore because they don't want me to get the credit," Obama said.

But the interview didn’t cover only serious matters. Obama also talked basketball.

Still a hometown man, Obama said Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan "will always be the guy for me."

But in the same breath, Obama said he believes LeBron James of the two-time defending World Champion Miami Heat has what it takes to become an all-time great.

"You know LeBron, I know LeBron. When you're standing next to him and then you watch him close up - I've never seen somebody that size, that fast, who can jump that high, who's that strong, who has that much basketball savvy all in one package," Obama said in the interview that was recorded Thursday and aired Sunday before the game.

"Now, I'm a Chicago guy, and Mike will always be the guy for me, just because that was a magical moment for the city, and he was a champion, but Mike's now retired," he said.

"LeBron, when you look at him, you might think he might be able to play at a high level for another seven, eight, 10 years. He's only 29 years old. In terms of every aspect of the game, LeBron has the chance to be as good as anybody."

Obama welcomed James and the Heat to the White House last month to congratulate them on a second-straight NBA championship.

Even then, the President couldn't resist putting in a plug for his hometown team.

"They won a team record 66 games," Obama said while praising the Heat's 2013 season. "At one point, they won 27 games straight - the second-longest winning streak ever. Extraordinarily impressive."

Then Obama quipped: "Almost as impressive as the Bulls' 72-win season."

Widely known as an avid basketball player, Obama also touched on how often he’s able to hit the court nowadays.

“It's probably once a month. You know, things happen,” Obama said.

“One is, you just get a little older and creakier. The second thing is, you've got to start thinking about things like elbows and you break your nose right before a State of the Union address."

CNN's Greg Clary, Dana Davidsen and Matthew Hoye contributed to this report.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    It must be – You guys are the experts, but I am learning.

    February 14, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    Chris-E – I don't think so.

    February 14, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  3. CryBabies

    @ it must be stated.....Bada Bing! You hit that nail on the head.

    February 14, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  4. Silence DoGood

    @Harold Read
    Says the man who threw 2 for 22 at the 2013 Easter Egg Roll...
    (sarcasm alert) The first thing an evil dictator does is roll eggs.

    February 14, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
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