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Obama gets assist from prominent NBA players

Pegged to President Obama's fundraiser yesterday with the NBA's Vince Carter, TheGrio.com's Perry Bacon Jr. notes how NBA players are strongly supporting the president and becoming more politically active.

Barack Obama is collecting major fundraising support from a small, influential group never truly tapped before by a presidential candidate: the National Basketball Association.

The Obama fundraiser held Thursday night at the Orlando home of the Dallas Mavericks Vince Carter was only the latest example of the strong backing the president is getting from former and current NBA players. Chicago Bulls star and league MVP Derrick Rose spoke at one of the events kicking off Obama's reelection campaign last spring. Former New York Knicks star Alan Houston also hosted a fundraiser.

A long list of players that included Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City), Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) and Carmelo Anthony (New York) committed to play in an "Obama Classic" exhibition game last December that would serve as a campaign fundraiser. It was postponed amid the lockout but still supposed to happen this summer. Obama supporters will pay $200 for the lowest-priced seats, $5,000 to sit courtside.

The embrace by the players is not surprising; Obama is an avowed hoops fan and perhaps the most NBA-versed president in history. (Other presidents, including Bill Clinton, were big college basketball fans) NBA players are overwhelming African-American, and blacks are Obama's most devoted supporters.

At the same time, it's a new role for NBA players. Most of them speak little about politics. And it's a marked contrast from the most famous player of the previous generation of the NBA, Michael Jordan, who in 1990 refused to endorse Harvey Gantt, a black Democrat in North Carolina running for the U.S Senate.