The Science of Playing Basketball with President Obama

McLachlin takes part in presidential pick-up game

On January 13, 2009, in Photos, by Baller-in-Chief

(From PGATour.com) Photo courtesy of Kristy McLachlin From left, Parker’s brother Spencer McLachlin, Spencer’s girlfriend Cynthia Barboza, President-Elect Barack Obama, Parker’s mother Beth McLachlin, Parker himself, Parker’s father Chris McLachlin and Parker’s wife Kristy McLachlin. HONOLULU, Hawaii — Parker McLachlin wasn’t about to try to take a charge. Not when he was guarding the soon-to-be […]

(From PGATour.com)

From left, Parker's brother Spencer McLachlin, Spencer's girlfriend Cynthia Barboza, President-Elect Barack Obama, Parker's mother Beth McLachlin, Parker himself, Parker's father Chris McLachlin and Parker's wife Kristy McLachlin.
Photo courtesy of Kristy McLachlin

From left, Parker’s brother Spencer McLachlin, Spencer’s girlfriend Cynthia Barboza, President-Elect Barack Obama, Parker’s mother Beth McLachlin, Parker himself, Parker’s father Chris McLachlin and Parker’s wife Kristy McLachlin.

HONOLULU, Hawaii — Parker McLachlin wasn’t about to try to take a charge.

Not when he was guarding the soon-to-be leader of the free world, Barack Obama. Not with the Secret Service on the sidelines on alert.

“He liked to drive,” McLachlin recalled with a smile. “But when you’re the President-elect nobody’s going to get in your way. The seas kind of part a little bit.”

Still, the opportunity to play a pick-up game with the man who will take the oath of office as President of the United States next week was something the PGA TOUR veteran will never forget.

Both are Punahou High alums, and McLachlin’s father, Chris, was Obama’s basketball coach. When Obama took an extended break in his native Hawaii over the Christmas holidays, he wanted to get together with his former teammates to see who still had game.

The elder McLachlin was asked to be part of the festivities at the Punahou gym, and he finagled invites for Parker and his 6-foot-8 brother, Spencer, who is an outside hitter on the Stanford volleyball team.

“Just in case a couple of the other guys got hurt or got tired,” McLachlin said, grinning.

“It was kind of surreal. I’ve been in that gym tons or times and seeing no one in there except the people playing basketball … was pretty wild. It was just really quiet and just us playing.”

Obama, a member of the Class of 79, and his former teammates played four games of 21. McLachlin and his brother got to play in the third, and suddenly he found himself guarding the President-elect. Not before Obama had some fun at McLachlin’s expense.

“That was kind of his choice,” McLachlin recalled. “My team had the ball first and he said, ‘OK, I’ll guard the golfer.’ He was making fun of me because I didn’t have any basketball shoes. All I had were tennis shoes, low cut tennis shoes.

“He looks over at my dad and he’s, like, ‘Coach, what’s the deal? You can’t afford to buy your son some basketball shoes? We’re out here playing basketball, you know. Then he’s like well, maybe it’s because he’s a golfer.”

McLachlin, who picked up his first PGA TOUR victory at the Reno-Tahoe Open last year, had never met Obama. He found him to be a “guy’s guy — not afraid to get made fun of and not afraid to make fun of people. But it was in a really nice way.”

McLachlin was also impressed with Obama’s skills on the basketball court. He didn’t start for McLachlin’s father, but Obama was the first player off the bench.

“He was pretty good on fast breaks,” McLachlin said. “He ran the court pretty well and he was a really good passer. He had really good vision on the court. He was always looking for someone else he could dish it off to.

“When the opportunity was there, though, he would shoot it and most of the time make it.”

For the record, Obama’s team won 21-17 but he only scored one basket on McLachlin, who was philosophical in defeat.

“First time you meet the president you don’t want to beat him,” he said. “I want to get that second invite.”

Actually, McLachlin may already have. Obama was repeatedly photographed on one of Honolulu’s many golf courses, and the two talked about playing 18 together in the future.

“He said, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve known you were around. I could’ve used a few tips,’” McLachlin said. “I said, yeah, next time we’ll definitely have to do it. He said, yeah, when you’re back in D.C. for (the AT&T National) we’ll have to tee it up.

“That would be really cool.”

McLachlin was struck by how genuine Obama was. He said there was a real connection “even if you only met him for 10 seconds,” McLachin said. “He really seemed to care about what others had going on in their lives. It wasn’t just about him.”

No surprise, then, when McLachlin says he and his wife, Kristy, both voted for the Democrat. They were riveted as they watched Obama give his acceptance speech in Chicago’s Grant Park in the wee hours of the morning.

“The whole political season was fun for both of us to watch and when he won, I think we both were like wow, that’s unbelievable — somebody that’s interconnected with our family, with my dad, is now president of the United States,” McLachlin said.

“It’s hard to comprehend. That office is seen as such an elite place to be and to think that he went to the same high school as me, to think that he played basketball for my dad, that he learned some of the same lessons that I learned — that to me is pretty special. It just kind of gives me hope for the next four to eight years.”

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