Obama says Harvard team basketball was so much more than him

Obama says Harvard team basketball was so much more than him
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“There’s something amazing about hitching your cart to something bigger than yourself.”

Former President Barack Obama speaks after he and former first lady Michelle Obama unveiled their official White House portraits during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The Associated Press

Former President Barack Obama told the Harvard men’s basketball team on Friday that the sport taught him “it wasn’t just for me” – a lesson he hoped they would take with them in other more substantial efforts.

“There’s something amazing about hitching your cart to something bigger than yourself,” Obama said, according to a recap of the meeting that was provided to The Associated Press.

“The odds that any of you will be LeBron or Steph, however good you are, aren’t nearly as high as the odds that you’ll be extraordinary leaders in health, business, or civil rights.” , Obama said, referring to NBA superstars LeBron James and Stephen Curry. “I want you to stay focused on winning this long game.”

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991, Obama returned to Cambridge to participate in “The Breakfast Club”, a group formed by basketball coach Tommy Amaker with law professors Charles Ogletree and Ron Sullivan to create a community of black leaders and connect them with their team.

The meeting was closed to the media but a summary was provided to The Associated Press by Amaker’s spokeswoman.

“Good teams have good players, but great teams have good teammates – that’s the philosophy we instill in our academics and players,” Amaker said. “And that’s exactly the message the president reinforced for them today.”

Since arriving in 2007 as the only black head coach among Harvard’s 32 varsity teams, Amaker has taken on his responsibility as a teacher, often turning games on the road into field trips.

He scheduled a game against Howard, Washington’s historically black school, on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, took the team to visit the MLK Memorial and had an audience with the Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, the former dean of Harvard Law School and clerk for Thurgood Marshall.

The Crimson met former President Jimmy Carter while on a trip to Georgia to play Mercer.

The Breakfast Club gatherings at a restaurant in the Harvard Square Hotel brought together guests from the sports world and beyond – many of whom were black leaders who were pioneers in their field or others with a connection to the sport. social justice.

Previous speakers include sports sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and two Massachusetts governors.

But Obama, who played basketball in high school and in pickup games throughout his tenure in the White House, was the biggest winner yet.

“It was more than an honor and truly a distinct privilege to have President Obama with us,” Amaker said, adding that he hoped it would inspire his players “to think big when it comes to what ‘they can accomplish in their life’.

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