March Madness Takes Over the White House

"At the end of the interview, I looked at then-Sen. Obama and said 'look, there's one campaign promise you're going to have to keep. If you win, in March, I'm coming to the White House to fill out the bracket,'" Katz said. "And to their credit, Robert Gibbs, his press secretary, and the president, remembered when I sent in my request and said, 'oh yeah, we're doing this.'"

All of the president's picks are No. 1 seeds, except Memphis, which is the only one with a No. 2 seed behind Connecticut in the West regional.

Hoops Galore

The president takes his sports seriously and he's no rookie at basketball.

"The memory of Magic, and Bird, and [Greg] Kelser, all those guys ... it was an unbelievable game, and invigorated not only college basketball but ultimately pro basketball as well," Obama told Katz, talking about the inspiration he got from the 1979 championship game between Michigan and Indiana. At the time, Obama was a senior in high school. "So for any kind of basketball fan, Indiana State-Michigan State, that still is one of the greatest games of all time."

Two weeks ago, he went to the Verizon Center to watch his hometown team Chicago Bulls play against the Washington Wizards.

Possibly inspired by the Bulls' loss, Obama then played basketball for nearly two hours at the Department of the Interior.

Basketball is an important part of the president's life, his advisers have said. Gibbs said playing ball helps Obama get exercise and relieve stress. Gibbs says that when Obama plays, he can think about something different, even if only for a short time. The president is known to jump in a pick-up game whenever he can.

Even before the Chicago native arrived at the White House, he expressed his desire to convert the tennis courts in the White House to a basketball court.

Lately, it's been too cold for the president to play outdoors, but he did admit in his first interview with NBC that he has been playing "horse" on the basketball court.

He recently received an autographed shoe from Phoenix's star player Shaquille O'Neal on a trip to Arizona.

Basketball may be his first love -- when it comes to sports -- but it's not the only one. He's openly expressed his football picks and hosted a party at the White House during the Super Bowl. He also took in a round of golf while vacationing in Hawaii during Christmas and is set to take in a round with star Tiger Woods at some point. He will also throw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Stadium next month.

The first round of the tournament begins Thursday. The president may be able to steal a few minutes to watch that game -- the "chances are high," he said -- but during the start of the Final Four, the president and Michelle Obama will be in Europe in their first overseas trip.

"We're going to be watching it, but it will probably be 2 in the morning where we are," Obama said. "I'm not going to be able to watch any game the whole way through, but we're going to be checking the scores."

And if he's on Air Force One come game time, that's even better.

"Air Force One does have DIRECTV," Obama said.

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