President Barack Obama raised $2.1 million at an election-year fundraiser that allowed him to indulge in his love of basketball, but missed seeing NBA phenom Jeremy Lin.
The $30,000-a-plate dinner at Dallas Maverick forward Vince Carter’s house in Orlando, Florida was attended by legendary Los Angeles Laker Earvin “Magic” Johnson and former Miami Heat stars Alonzo Mourning and Steve Smith.
“This is a nice gym,” Obama said at the start of a stump speech late Thursday on Carter’s personal court, where a scoreboard was lit up 44-44 in honor of Obama being the country’s 44th president.
“Vince said he left the other side open in case I wanted to get in a dunk contest with him. But I told him I didn’t bring my sneakers, so not tonight,” Obama quipped.
The 70 guests also included National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
Obama thanked Stern for helping to end a five-month lockout that threatened to scupper this year’s NBA season, saying: “I don’t know what I would be doing with myself if I didn’t at least have some basketball games around.
An avid basketball fan and player, Obama often takes part in pickup games with White House staffers.
Although Obama and Asian-American basketball star Lin were both in Miami on Thursday, the commander in chief missed Lin’s New York Knicks fall to the Miami Heat in a a 102-88 defeat.
White House spokesman Jay Carney had earlier said that members of the president’s staff had hoped Obama might attend the matchup.
“We have been encouraging him to ‘call an audible’ if you will… so that we can stay in Miami and watch the game,” Carney said, using an American football term that means a change in plans.
“Unfortunately, that’s not going to be possible.”
Lin has been the NBA’s biggest story this month, coming off the Knicks bench after being cut by two other clubs to have the best performance of any NBA player in his first 10 starts since 1976.
Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan, has become a phenomenon because of his scoring — averaging nearly 24 points a game — his passing skills and his clutch shooting ability, including a last-second game winner at Toronto.