Famous Figures

Happy birthday, Mr. President: Four memorable culture moments from Obama’s term


Today, August 4, is President Barack Obama’s 59th birthday. The first Black commander-in-chief in United States history made no bones about the fact that he was a hip-hop aficionado, a hoops junkie and in tune with pop culture on all levels.

To celebrate his birthday, here are some of our favorite Obama moments from his time in the White House.

The man loved hoops

Much has been said and written about President Obama’s love for the game of basketball. And he wasn’t just a fan — the man could play. Would Magic Johnson come out of retirement to hoop with anybody else on their 50th birthday? Probably not.

And Magic wasn’t the only big-name player who got the chance to run plays with Obama. LeBron James, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Shane Battier, Alonzo Mourning and Maya Moore all laced them up in DC for that famous birthday match-up, while Bulls legend Scottie Pippen played alongside the former Illinois Senator on Election Day in 2012.

This Sports Illustrated interview with former White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer from earlier this year has great insight into what it was like playing alongside the president.

Obama also dabbled in college hoops, famously filling out an NCAA tournament bracket on ESPN with Andy Katz in 2012.

Barack Obama: Hip-Hop Head

Obama was a noted hip-hop historian. He referenced Jay Z and Kanye West lyrics in speeches, dropped Spotify playlists full of bangers, rapped along during Chuck D’s performance of “Fight The Power” at the opening of the National Museum of American History and Culture, and even drew praise from legend of the game Ice Cube.

Perhaps his most divisive moment was an appearance with YouTube star Swoozie, who prompted him to choose who’s the better rapper: Drake or Kendrick Lamar?

A sneakerhead president?

Who could forget the time Kim Kardashian tweeted an image of two Yeezy shoeboxes (one pair of 350s, one of 750s) with Post-It notes bearing Obama’s name?

But it’s safe to assume President Obama — a father of two — isn’t exactly a hypebeast. He was captured in dozens of photographs over the years rocking Asics or New Balance runners, in true Dad Style, and he hooped in everything from Under Armour to Reebok.

Obama was even gifted a custom pair of Air Jordan 4s in 2017 when Dexter Fowler of the Chicago Cubs visited the White House after the Cubbies’ World Series win.

Check out Sneaker Freaker’s terrific piece: The Sneaker Evolution of Barack Obama.

A man of good taste

The year 2016 saw Obama sit down for a meal with late and legendary foodie Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi, Vietnam for an episode of the latter’s TV show “Parts Unknown.”

Seeing the world’s most powerful man sitting on a plastic stool in a low-key eatery in South East Asia, surrounded by locals enjoying similar cuisine was a wild contrast and a testament to the “man of the people” vibe Obama threw out there.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for more cultural moments throughout the year.