Former President Barack Obama is a big basketball fan. During his time in the White House, he converted the property’s tennis court so that it could double as a basketball court. He took in games alongside notables like Prince Harry and then-British Prime Minister David Cameron, and played the sport on his White House court with aides and and even NBA superstars like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
The former president’s love of the game goes way back—he played for his Punahou High School varsity team during adolescence, and they took home the 1979 Hawaii State Championship in his senior year. And now some well-heeled history buffs have a shot at owning piece of Obama basketball memorabilia, as one of president’s game-worn championship jerseys heads to auction.
The jersey is owned by fellow Punahou High alum Peter Nobel, who graduated three years behind the future president and wore the same number, 23 (which would also go on to be shared by Michael Jordan and LeBron James) when he played for the junior varsity team. "Despite spending his formative years separated from the American mainland by wide expanses of the Pacific Ocean, Barack Obama still found himself to be a member of that most thoroughly American demographic-a black kid who loved basketball," reads Heritage Auction's description.
To the auction house, American history imbues the jersey with special significance. "To the degree that a white cataloger could presume to speak to what the sport of basketball has meant to the African-American experience of the past half-century, this is far more than a simple article of sports memorabilia," wrote Heritage. "The offered jersey survives as a symbol of the 'audacity of hope' that one of those kids on one of those playgrounds, hooping it up with his buddies, could indeed become the most powerful man on the planet."
While Obama's fondness for one of the nation’s most popular pastimes more likely has little relevance to the lives of most black kids, even those who enjoy “hooping it up,” the jersey itself is a neat historical artifact. As of Sunday, the starting bid for it is $27,000—though the auction house estimates that the final bid could be as high as $100,000.
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