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While basketball didn’t take up residence in the White House in January 2009, the game nonetheless played an outsized role in forming the man who did. In The Audacity of Hoop, celebrated sportswriter Alexander Wolff examines Barack Obama, the person and president, by the light of basketball. This game helped Obama explore his identity, keep a cool head, impress his future While basketball didn’t take up residence in the White House in January 2009, the game nonetheless played an outsized role in forming the man who did. In The Audacity of Hoop, celebrated sportswriter Alexander Wolff examines Barack Obama, the person and president, by the light of basketball. This game helped Obama explore his identity, keep a cool head, impress his future wife, and define himself as a candidate.  Wolff chronicles Obama’s love of the game from age 10, on the campaign trail—where it eventually took on talismanic meaning—and throughout his two terms in office. More than 125 photographs illustrate Obama dribbling, shooting free throws, playing pickup games, cooling off with George Clooney, challenging his special assistant Reggie Love for a rebound, and taking basketball to political meetings. There is also an assessment of Obama’s influence on the NBA, including a dawning political consciousness in the league’s locker rooms.  Sidebars reveal the evolution of the president’s playing style, “Baracketology”—a not-entirely-scientific art of filling out the commander in chief’s NCAA tournament bracket—and a timeline charts Obama’s personal and professional highlights. Equal parts biographical sketch, political narrative, and cultural history, The Audacity of Hoop shows how the game became a touchstone in Obama’s exercise of the power of the presidency.    


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While basketball didn’t take up residence in the White House in January 2009, the game nonetheless played an outsized role in forming the man who did. In The Audacity of Hoop, celebrated sportswriter Alexander Wolff examines Barack Obama, the person and president, by the light of basketball. This game helped Obama explore his identity, keep a cool head, impress his future While basketball didn’t take up residence in the White House in January 2009, the game nonetheless played an outsized role in forming the man who did. In The Audacity of Hoop, celebrated sportswriter Alexander Wolff examines Barack Obama, the person and president, by the light of basketball. This game helped Obama explore his identity, keep a cool head, impress his future wife, and define himself as a candidate.  Wolff chronicles Obama’s love of the game from age 10, on the campaign trail—where it eventually took on talismanic meaning—and throughout his two terms in office. More than 125 photographs illustrate Obama dribbling, shooting free throws, playing pickup games, cooling off with George Clooney, challenging his special assistant Reggie Love for a rebound, and taking basketball to political meetings. There is also an assessment of Obama’s influence on the NBA, including a dawning political consciousness in the league’s locker rooms.  Sidebars reveal the evolution of the president’s playing style, “Baracketology”—a not-entirely-scientific art of filling out the commander in chief’s NCAA tournament bracket—and a timeline charts Obama’s personal and professional highlights. Equal parts biographical sketch, political narrative, and cultural history, The Audacity of Hoop shows how the game became a touchstone in Obama’s exercise of the power of the presidency.    

30 review for The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sean Kelly

    The goal of this review is to remain relatively apolitical, but it's possible that the act of reading The Audacity of Hoop is political in and of itself. Alexander Wolff's work in Sports Illustrated and other publications is interesting and well-written, and TAH does not deviate from this trend. There are essentially two components to this book: the basketball part and the politics part. Wolff does a fine job of intertwining the two, so there is just enough to keep basketball fans and political The goal of this review is to remain relatively apolitical, but it's possible that the act of reading The Audacity of Hoop is political in and of itself. Alexander Wolff's work in Sports Illustrated and other publications is interesting and well-written, and TAH does not deviate from this trend. There are essentially two components to this book: the basketball part and the politics part. Wolff does a fine job of intertwining the two, so there is just enough to keep basketball fans and political junkies alike turning pages. At first glance, the layout of the book seems a bit clunky, or compartmentalized, but the overarching theme in the book is how the game of basketball influenced the most important president of our time and how, in turn, he influenced the game. Both of these aspects of the book are fascinating. At the risk of sounding political, I was fortunate enough to read it at a time when political discourse and social awareness are at a stark contrast to "the age of Obama". As such, one of the most refreshing aspects of the book is the even-keeled (as much as possible given the title) look the reader gets into the use of the game of basketball and the culture of sport to bridge seemingly impossible gaps between the bipartisan ideals of American politics and culture. The common ground of the hardwood allowed politicians, athletes, celebrities, and average citizens alike to overlook political or ideological affiliations (we are all just "ball players" after all...). Call it idealistic if you want, but I found this refreshing, and it's important to recognize that society can do with a reminder that common ground can always be reached, regardless of the width of the divide (which at the time of this review appears substantial). Overall, this is an interestingly-crafted account of a pivotal time in sports and politics (despite other reviewers' observations regarding sentence structure... easily overlooked in my opinion, and perhaps influenced by the segmented layout of the book). I certainly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in basketball, politics, or the influence of sport on society (although that aspect was really only just briefly examined).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    Basketball fans would really like this book. You'll need to know some basketball lingo to understand some of it though. I don't know what H-O-R-S-E means (maybe some kind of one-on-one playing?). Lots of sports name dropping along with politicos (NBA players, congressmen, cabinet members) and their corresponding history of the sport. Some of the writing didn't have anything to do with Obama. Also needs more editing - many run-on sentences.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    A nice walk down a recent memory lane with my beloved President Obama. I knew basketball was an important part of his life, as it was for me as a guy who enjoyed the competition and fellowship of playing the game till I was in my 50's.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Artie

    A low 5. The photos are stunning but the text is just slightly above average.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Lavelle

    I loved this book. The pictures from Pete Souza are incredible.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Noah

    I love how Barack Obama has a passion for basketball playing it on the campaign trail and in the White House while President and attending NBA games and other basketball games and teams getting invite d to the White House and photos of them with him in the Oval Office. Truly an amazing story.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bap

    This book is a series of essays by sportswriter Alexander Wolff concerning the impact that basketball had on a scrawny kid growing up in Hawaii without a father and a mother often out of the picture doing field research. That left Barry with his grand parents. One of the few times he met his father, he gave him a basketball which was odd as there is no evidence that his father played or cared about the game. But Barry used the sport as a passport to self confidence and a link to his place as a b This book is a series of essays by sportswriter Alexander Wolff concerning the impact that basketball had on a scrawny kid growing up in Hawaii without a father and a mother often out of the picture doing field research. That left Barry with his grand parents. One of the few times he met his father, he gave him a basketball which was odd as there is no evidence that his father played or cared about the game. But Barry used the sport as a passport to self confidence and a link to his place as a black man. He played in high school for a private school that one good enough to win the state championship but the coach did not feel that Barry was good enough to play much, which rankled him. That was the end of his formal play but he continued to play pick- up in college, in law school, as a community organizer, and later as a He assembled his team to make a push for the White House. He would play on the day of the important primaries. When Obama arrived, basketball was cool. He ripped out the tennis court and built a court on the White House grounds. It was the most exclusive game in town. As a life time player, I appreciated the book. It is a homage to pick-up basketball which as one gets past a certain age is dependent on a group of players that pass, rebound, set picks, and don't behave badly. Respect for the game. I have had the pleasure of playing with a number of players who regularly played with Obama including David Axelrod, Julius Janecowski, and Samantha Power. I had hoped that Obama would grace our game with his presence but it was not to be. This book captures how Hoop can help usher a kid to adulthood and then later can be a bridge to trying to hold back the sand in the hour glass if only for a few hours a week.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ken Lawrence

    Very interesting book about President Obama and basketball. Seriously.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joan Conroy

  11. 5 out of 5

    Beissy

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brian Williams

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ben Worsley

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Troup

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter Van

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gregg Found

  17. 5 out of 5

    Raphael

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Rowe

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eugene Kim

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vivian

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gunnar Brooks

  22. 4 out of 5

    Erit Yellen

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anna Gallagher

  24. 4 out of 5

    Claude

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jon Demse

  26. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  27. 4 out of 5

    Therese Fleming

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris Bodner

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shawn Krest

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elinor

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