Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders showed off his basketball skills as he awaited the New Hampshire primary results last week, and it became clear that he had a devastating set shot. The Guardian’s Les Carpenter dug into Sanders’s hoops history and found that the politician had been part of a pickup league in Vermont in the 1970s.
Sanders stopped showing up as his political responsibilities grew, but when he did play, he was a vocal presence on the court. The testimonials from other players, via Carpenter:
“He wasn’t very fast.”
“He was crafty.”
“He had good elbows.”
“From mid-range, 10-15 feet he could kill you.”
“He sort of liked to be in charge, so there really nothing different in that,” laughs David Sharpe, the auto mechanic who ran his own shop in those days and is now a Vermont state legislator. “He would direct traffic and tell us who was goofing off.”
Despite his lack of speed, Sanders used everything in his arsenal to make his opponents respect his space, including his elbows:
He also knew how to battle on a basketball court. Aside from his jump shot the one thing people remember about his games were his elbows. They were bony and hard and hurt when they made contact with your ribs. And they seemed to find their way into the side of every player at one time or another.
“You didn’t want to run into Bernie because you would get an elbow,” Borger says. “Not intentional, but he would come down hard.”
Doubleday laughs as he recalls the players who, on occasion, found themselves knocked into the stage at one end of the court. More than a few of those, he says, may have been bumped there by Vermont’s future US senator. “He has long arms, I like to say he has ‘Kevin McHale arms,’” Doubleday says. “He would smack the ball away.”
Basically, Bernie Sanders’s game was similar to the pest that is Matthew Dellavedova.
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