Obama shoots down rumors of Phoenix Suns ownership, praises team’s play

Former President Barack Obama. who is a longtime Chicago Bulls fan, was rumored to be part of a group interested in buying the Phoenix Suns, sports journalist Bill Simmons reported. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Former President Barack Obama was featured in ESPN’s “The Last Dance” discussing Michael Jordan and the Bulls and was identified as a “former Chicago resident.” (Photo by Preston Keres/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Phoenix Suns owner Barack Obama?

The former President’s visit to the Valley Wednesday coincided with a report that he is part of an ownership group interested in buying the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, news that intrigued at least one member of the NBA organization.

“I think anybody would value a partnership with someone like that,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I would love to just pick his brain and just sit and listen for hours about life and decisions and things like that. … When I saw that, I thought that’s pretty cool. I think it speaks to what the guys have built here.”

For now, it appears to be just a rumor.

Speaking at Cesar Chavez High School in Laveen Village Wednesday, Obama said, “I didn’t know I was in the market and by the way, neither did Michelle… But I will say this, the Suns are looking pretty good.”

The speech was part of a campaign stop for the former president and basketball fan as Tuesday’s midterm elections near.

His visit follows a recent conversation on “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” when Simmons told former Suns star Charles Barkley, “I’m probably breaking some news here, but I heard Obama’s involved in one of the groups. And that’s the one guy that I feel like they would make him the actual face (of the group), and the money guys would be so happy.”

Obama is longtime sports fan. During his presidency, he filled out brackets on ESPN for the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. He often spoke of his love for the Chicago White Sox and has sat courtside for multiple Chicago Bulls games.

As president, he even posted on social media about sports, once tweeting about then-Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, “Let’s sign him up long term.”

Wednesday, he didn’t close the door on his potential involvement down the road either. If he were to ever move forward, it would not be the first time a major U.S. political figure had stakes in athletics.

In the early 1980s, Donald Trump owned the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League. Trump’s reign as a pro sports team owner was short-lived as it came to an end after only two seasons before the USFL folded in 1986.

George W. Bush was part of the controlling group that purchased the Texas Rangers in 1989, but the group later sold its stake before Bush won his bid for the presidency.

“He was a huge baseball fan,” former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said of Bush. “Once, after the Rangers swept my Yankees, he sent me an email that simply said, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ He very much cared about that game.”

While Obama would not be the first political figure to own a sports team, he would be the first to do so after his presidency rather than before it. The venture would make him the highest profile sports owner in American history. It also would help lift the dark cloud left by current owner Robert Sarver, who said he felt pressured to sell both the Suns and the Mercury after an investigation found him responsible for racist and sexist behavior in the workplace.

Obama wasn’t the only big name rumored to be part of a possible group that might buy the Suns and Mercury. Barkley, the former Suns MVP, practically jumped out of his seat at the thought of joining the team.

“If Obama called me, hell yeah I’m buying in,” Barkley said on “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” “I got so much love and admiration for that guy.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Tom Aizenberg expects to graduate in December 2022 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Aizenberg has written for the Daily Californian, Last Word on Sports and Bright Side of the Sun.