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Obama taking in Olympic basketball tune-ups

By Ken Thomas

Associated Press

Published: Monday, July 16 2012 3:34 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — Hoops fan President Barack Obama is getting an Olympic preview of USA Basketball.

Obama will be in the stands Monday for the U.S. men's and women's Olympic basketball exhibition games against Brazil. The games are tune-ups before the start of the London Olympics later this month.

Obama is an avid basketball fan and the games allow him to wrap himself in the Olympic spirit during his re-election campaign. His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, is expected to use the Olympics to highlight his leadership role during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Romney, who helped turn around the Salt Lake City Games after they became caught up in a bribery scandal, plans to be in London for the opening ceremonies next week. First lady Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies.

ESPN play-by-play commentator Mark Jones was interviewing Obama during halftime of the men's game, which was being broadcast on ESPN2. Vice President Joe Biden was joining Obama at Monday's exhibition games.

Some members of the men's team are Obama supporters. A handful of Olympic team members, including Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, had agreed to participate in a basketball game fundraiser for Obama's campaign last December but the event was cancelled because of the resolution of the NBA lockout. The fundraising game has not been rescheduled.

Obama's campaign held a fundraiser last February at the Orlando-area home of Vince Carter of the Dallas Mavericks. Attendees included Paul, who plays point guard for the Los Angeles Clippers, NBA commissioner David Stern and former NBA stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning.

Basketball has been a longtime passion of Obama's. He played high school basketball in Hawaii and likes to play pickup basketball with friends. He helps coach his daughter Sasha's youth team and keeps close tabs on his hometown Chicago Bulls.

During Veterans Day last year, he was courtside for a game between Michigan State and North Carolina on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson off the coast of San Diego. In March, Obama invited British Prime Minister David Cameron to an opening round game of the NCAA tournament in Ohio.