LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Former President Bill Clinton was a better musician than an athlete growing up. The future leader of the free world says he was better at a lot of things, actually. But all these years later, Clinton says some of his fondest childhood memories took place on a basketball court or whatever field he and his friends could find to start up a game of touch football.
"You don't have to be great at something to be competitive at it," Clinton said Monday night during a discussion with Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant at the opening of the third annual Clinton Health Matters Conference on kids and sports at the La Quinta Resort.
"I still remember the only church league basketball game that I was the leading scorer. I was 16 years old and I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the basket I made to be the leading scorer. You may think that's silly, like this guy's been president and he's thinking about a basketball game ... it was one of those magical nights. I might as well have won the NBA championship."
That drew a chuckle from Bryant, who has won five NBA titles, but obviously appreciated hearing about Clinton's competitive streak.
"There's a lot of people out there who don't believe in having healthy competition," Bryant said. "I think we have to make it enjoyable and for kids to understand that there's a certain spirit of competition that's fun. It's not nasty, it's not aggressive, it's just fun competition, and I think when you have that kids will go out and enjoy themselves. They'll pick up their activity instead of just plopping down in front of the TV."
According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, children ages 8 to 18 spend more than 7½ hours a day in front of a screen (a television, computer or playing video games). It's a staggering figure that's contributed to the United States having one of the highest child obesity rates in the world. A 2012 American Medical Association study found that obesity in children ages 6 to 11 has doubled in the past 30 years. Among adolescents ages 12 to 19, it has tripled.
"This may be the least active generation of young people in history," Clinton said. "The problem is that this can have lasting, damaging effects on all of them and actually wind up shortening their life expectancy. So we're doing this because there are simple solutions to this problem that will pay massive dividends."
Bryant and Clinton discussed the causes of the epidemic as well as ideas and solutions to tackle the problem. Their discussion was moderated by Mike Greenberg, host of ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike," and will be broadcast on Feb. 9 on ESPN2, along with interviews conducted by Olympian and ESPN soccer analyst Julie Foudy, and a panel discussion involving Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, Olympic sprinter Allyson Felix, Olympian and former NFL star Herschel Walker and United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun that was moderated by Aspen Institute Sports and Society director and ESPN contributor Tom Farrey.