A basketball jersey thought to have been worn by former President Barack Obama during his prep-school days fetched $120,000 at a Saturday auction in Dallas, the Associated Press reported.
According to Heritage Auctions, the “Punahou 23” jersey was sold by Pete Noble, who attended Punahou School in Honolulu around the same time as Obama, 58.
Noble explained in a letter that in the early 1980s he came across the jersey, which was “intended for the garbage,” but instead he kept it.
“What had been for decades a personal memento of my own childhood has been transformed into a monumental artifact of American history, and as such I have decided [it] deserves a stage much larger than my closet,” wrote Noble, who is now 55 and lives in Seattle.
He wrote that he had “kept the jersey all these years as a memento of very special times and glory days” — until Obama was elected in 2008, and Noble “happened to notice (I believe in a Sports Illustrated article) that he also happened to wear #23.”
“He [Obama] wore it 2 years before the time I would have worn a #23 Punahou varsity jersey for 2 years,” Noble wrote.
Ahead of the sale, Noble told the AP that he would be donating some of the earnings to the school “because I owe so much to Punahou,” and he joked that he wished he’d gotten his hands on another jersey as well.
“I wish I had grabbed No. 5 because it was Darryl Gabriel and Darryl Gabriel was my favorite player,” he said, noting he remembered that Obama was on the basketball team when Gabriel led them to the state championship.
While the AP reports that the auctioned jersey’s details match the one Obama was pictured wearing in the 1970s, a spokesman for Punahou School, Robert Gelber, told the outlet that they could not vouch for its authenticity.
Obama frequently released his March Madness brackets during his tenure in the Oval Office and was known to participate in pick-up games with some formidable opponents — including LeBron James, who told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show back in 2012 that the former president was “very, very good” on the basketball court.
In January, former NBA player Bill Walton name-dropped the politician when asked by fellow ESPN broadcaster Dave Pasch about a then-recent coaching change at UCLA.
“What type of characteristics should UCLA look for in their next coach?” asked Pasch, in the wake of Steve Alford’s firing as the head of the Los Angeles school’s Bruins basketball team.
Walton — an alumnus of UCLA — responded bluntly, “Barack Obama,” pointing out that there was a family connection that might’ve made it a real possibility as opposed to a pipe dream.
“His brother-in-law [Craig Robinson] coached,” Walton said. “I’m sticking with Barack Obama until he says no.” The position eventually went to Mick Cronin.
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