In a fawning interview Bill Simmons conducted with Barack Obama for GQ, the president lets readers know the inside-baseball secrets of his sports-minded mind, including his desire to own an NBA franchise, his belief that he and Aaron Rodgers share a kindred unflappability, and his disbelief that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $44 million a year.
Simmons makes clear from the start his hero-worship of Obama, writing, “Obama—both the person and the president—carries himself like Roger Federer, a merciless competitor who keeps coming and coming, only there’s a serenity about him that disarms just about everyone.”
It’s all downhill from there.
After Obama brags about his “good temperament,” Simmons likens him to Gregg Popovich, prompting Obama to agree, asserting, “I think that’s a quality that I have—not getting flustered in what’s around me.” He compares himself to “Rodgers in the pocket, in the sense of you can’t be distracted by what’s around you, you’ve got to be looking downfield. And I think that’s a quality that I have—not getting flustered in what’s around me.” Remarking that he watches NBA Classics to relax, he compares himself to Michael Jordan:
But a thing that you’re reminded of, watching those old Bulls games, is Jordan had some stinker games in the playoffs. But he would get that out of his mind, and then the next moment comes and he’s right there. He could have a terrible game for the first three quarters and then suddenly go crazy the fourth. Or he might miss a free throw, and then the next play is he’s stealing the ball and hitting the game-winning shot. Part of what I try to do—not at the level that Jordan did on the basketball court, but part of what you aspire to as president or any of these positions of leadership—is to try to figure out how to be in the moment, make the best decision you can, know that you’re going to get a bunch of them right, but a bunch of times you’re also not going to get it exactly the way you want it.
Obama admits he has a virtual driving range in the White House where he golfs to relieve stress, then is asked by Simmons if he would like to own an NBA team. Obama replies. “Absolutely.” When Simmons presses, “Would it have to be the Bulls, or would it have to be somebody else?” Obama answers, “Well, you know, I know [Jerry] Reinsdorf pretty good—he’s not giving that thing up anytime soon. But I have fantasized about being able to put together a team and how much fun that would be. I think it’d be terrific.”
In a brief aside, when Simmons asks Obama, “If you were campaigning against Trump, would you even bother? Would it be like LaBradford Smith talking trash to Jordan or something?” Obama grins, “I would’ve enjoyed campaigning against Trump. That would’ve been fun.”
Back to the NBA we go, as Simmons asks Obama which player is more untradeable, Derrick Rose or Jay Cutler. Obama chooses Rose for his youth, then intones, “I’ve not given up on him. Sadly, I think it’s hard to imagine, after that many injuries, him getting back to his MVP-season performance. But he can still be a top-ten point guard.”
When Simmons points out that sports commissioner jobs will be available in 2016, asking Obama which job he would prefer, Obama uses the opportunity to rip Goodell, stating, “Well, I’m best suited for basketball. But I cannot believe that the commissioner of football gets paid $44 million a year.”
Simmons jokes, “When you said, ‘I cannot believe…’, I didn’t know where you were going with that. Have you thought about calling Roger Goodell and being like, ‘What are you doing? Can I help you? Can I give you some advice? Want to have dinner?’”
Obama doesn’t miss a beat going after the 1%, answering, “They’re making a profit, and I think that’s what the owners are most concerned with.”
In December 2014, the president accused Goodell of “winging it” dealing with the NFL’s disciplinary action on domestic violence. Speaking with Colin Cowherd on ESPN’s The Herd about the Ray Rice situation, Obama lectured, “The way it was handled also indicates that the NFL was behind the curve…. As a lot of institutions have been behind the curve, in sending a clear message…. You don’t want to be winging it when something like this happens. You want to have clear policies in place.”