The Audacity of Hoop

The Audacity of Hoop

Basketball and the Age of Obama

With five main essays, fifteen sidebars, an illustrated timeline, and more than 125 images, The Audacity of Hoop looks at Barack Obama, person and president, by the light of the game most closely associated with him.

The book explains how he used basketball to find everything from his identity to his spouse. It explores how America’s “first post-industrial sport” helped him introduce himself to voters, wage two successful presidential campaigns, and exercise the power of the office at home and abroad. It profiles the basketball personalities around him and in his administration. And it takes the measure of changes in the game during his time in the White House, including a heightened political consciousness in NBA and WNBA locker rooms.

Part biographical sketch, part political narrative, and part cultural history, this is the definitive, comprehensive account of the game’s impact on Obama and Obama’s impact on the game, from an award-winning Sports Illustrated writer.

For more, and to see select photos from the book, visit


“The cool, the flow, the edge, the drive, the individual and the team, the black and white—all of that is Barack Obama, playing basketball, the American game. To those who consider the president a mystery, The Audacity of Hoop offers a key to understanding him, through Alexander Wolff’s fluid prose and Pete Souza’s evocative photographs.”

—David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Barack Obama: The Story

The Audacity of Hooplike the game of basketball it evokes and the political icon who memorably plays it—is a beautiful and timely book that moves in the graceful rhythms of the hardwood that President Obama has embraced. Basketball has not only taught Obama to be a fierce but disciplined competitor; it has also offered him a swagger and a vocabulary of physical cool and mental toughness that have carried him from street games to the biggest court in the world: the American presidency. Wolff’s brilliant and lovely pickup game of a book is a fitting metaphor to explore the racial and cultural dimensions of a man who used basketball to conquer the world and then used that power to play, as often as he could, wherever he was, the game that he—and the nation he leads—loves.”

—Michael Eric Dyson, author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America

The Audacity of Hoop reveals not only how Barack Obama’s first love shaped his character and fired his ambitions but also how, even now, the president’s pickup game is ‘a kind of polygraph of the heart.’ With poignant analysis and sparkling prose, Alexander Wolff shows us how basketball helped our forty-fourth president become as skilled at consensus building as he is at trash-talking. I love this book.”

—Don Van Natta Jr., ESPN Investigative Reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner, and New York Times best-selling author of First Off the Tee: Presidential Hackers, Duffers, and Cheaters from Taft to Bush

Alexander Wolff, with grace and marvelous insight, has written a beautiful basketball book that fans of the game will love. Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, The Audacity of Hoop will enthrall you. Wolff vividly explores basketball’s influence on the identity of President Obama and in the process reveals something magical about the sport itself.

—Kevin Merida, editor of and co-author of Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs

“A highly informed and fascinating look at the intersection of sports and politics that led me to unexpected realizations about Obama, the presidency, and the world of basketball. Smart and fun.”

—Gerald Early, Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters, Washington University in St. Louis

“In the book—which features large-scale photographs of the President at play, many taken by the official White House photographer, Pete Souza—Wolff breaks down the particulars of the President’s game. . . . Presidents are endlessly scrutinized, and must constantly calibrate their self-presentations to appeal to the electorate. Basketball, for all of its cultural complexity, has arguably been, as Wolff writes, one way for Obama ‘to let the public see exactly who he was.’”

—Ian Crouch,

“A mosaic . . . with an improvisational feel.”

New York Times Book Review

“In a class by itself.”

—Derek Shearer, former U.S. ambassador to Finland and director of the McKinnon Center for Global Affairs at Occidental College, The Huffington Post

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