Bales, Obama Team During 3-on-3 Challenge For Change

April 25, 2008

Barack Obama shakes hands with five-time WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings, while Blake Hancock and Alison Bales look on before beginning an evening of hoops. Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
KOKOMO, Ind. - Indiana Fever players Tamika Catchings and Alison Bales joined United States Senator (D-Ill.) and presidential hopeful Barack Obama in Friday evening’s “3-on-3 Challenge for Change” basketball game at Maple Crest Middle School.

The Obama campaign selected Marion High School junior Blake Hancock, and two friends of his choice, to participate after Hancock registered more than 150 Indiana residents to vote.

Still rehabbing from an injury, Catchings was the referee, while Indiana University-Kokomo freshman Kory McKay joined Bales and Obama to take on Hancock and his friends Ja’Rob McCallum and Devin Randle.

Obama, with a slight build and standing over six-feet tall, uses basketball as a means of exercise during his campaign, and an escape from his daily sport of politics. He has played the sport since playing on the junior varsity in high school in Hawaii. As a youngster, a Julius Erving poster graced his bedroom wall.

These days, his opportunities to shoot baskets are more rare, though he has found a way to mix these informal pickup games as he travels from community-to-community throughout his heated race for a Democratic nomination.

As the players took the court and Obama was questioning how to pick teams, one of the approximately 150 spectators in the private audience shouted, “You’re in Indiana, we shoot for teams here.” And so they took turns shooting from the 3-point stripe to establish teams of the first game.

In Game 1, before invited guests, approximately 18 cameras from various media outlets, and the obligatory cast of Secret Service officers and Obama campaign staffers, Bales, Obama, and Hancock were overpowering with a 15-5 victory. It was a half court game with shots worth one point each, and 3-point shots worth two. Bales led the way with five buckets while Obama and Hancock each connected on four shots, including one three-pointer each.

The left-handed shooting Obama showed some quickness with a hesitation move down the left side of the lane to get to the basket and put his team up 10-4 in the early going. Obama’s lone 3-pointer of the night was the game-winning bucket.

Alison Bales and Barack Obama double-team Devin Randle during Friday night's 3-on-3 Challenge for Change at Kokomo's Maple Crest Middle School.
Jessica Hoffman/PS&E Photo
After the first game Obama jokingly called for medical personnel and yelled out, “Water break, water break,” before shaking hands with those in attendance and posing for pictures with the players.

On Obama’s urging, players returned to the floor for a full court, 4-on-4 game including Mark Nicholson, a member of Obama’s travel planning staff, and former Duke player Reggie Love, Obama’s personal assistant. Love was a member of Duke’s national championship roster of 2001, and enjoyed a reunion with Bales, the former Blue Devils women’s star.

Love, sporting a green Chicago Bulls jersey bearing the name of college teammate Chris Duhon, joined Obama, Bales and McKay to challenge Hancock, McCallum, Nicholson, and Randle.

After a Bales 3-pointer, Love took over the scoring load for his team, finishing with two dunks and an NBA-range three. It wasn’t enough, though, as Obama was held scoreless, and McCallum connected on a three to lift his team to a 12-10 win.

When the game ended, Obama signed autographs for fans and let them take pictures.

Upon shaking hands as Catchings prepared to depart, Obama said to the Fever star, “Great to see you Tamika, good luck with your rehab.”

Back to campaigning for the Illinois Senator. Back to training camp for the Fever veterans.

-Josh Taylor