[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/08/art.lebronjames.0708u.gi.jpg caption="Robert Gibbs says President Obama still hopes Lebron James will play for his hometown team, the Chicago Bulls."](CNN) – For all the power and privileges associated with the Office of the President of the United States, very rarely does the White House venture into the world of professional sports.
But the president's real passion is for basketball, and by the most tenuous of threads, there appears to be a small White House connection to tonight's highly anticipated announcement by LeBron James.
James, a free agent, will announce tonight during a one-hour special on ESPN, which of several suitors he has chosen to play for next year.
But new details about how the television special came about reveal that Ari Emanuel, the super-agent brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, encouraged the idea when first proposed.
CNN's sister publication "Sports Illustrated" reports that when the idea of a one-hour announcement special was first floated by broadcaster Jim Gray, Emanuel was among those that encouraged the idea.
Gray made the pitch to Emanuel and Maverick Carter, James' marketing guru, during game two of the NBA finals.
But the idea took off, Sports Illustrated reports, when Gray, Carter and James later discussed the idea over dinner.
Obama is scheduled to be in Las Vegas Thursday evening holding a fundraiser for Sen. Harry Reid, and there is no word from the White House on whether Obama intends to watch the big announcement.
Obama is clearly interested, however.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked during Wednesday's press briefing if Obama had made his hopes for James known.
"After the news of Miami's apparent acquiring of Chris Bosh, I think the President still believes that he [James] would look quite good in a Bulls uniform. I hope that does not lead to NBA tampering charges," Gibbs said.
And can the president, a well known Bulls fan, be convinced to root for another team?
"I think the people of Ohio and the rest of the country would respect that the President is going to root for the team he's always rooted for," Gibbs said.