Among his teammates and adversaries will be Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Shaun Donovan; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; and eleven members of Congress. (They're listed here.)
The list of players reflects at least some effort to reach across the aisle -- there are two Republicans coming over from Congress, along with nine Democrats. Conspicuously missing from the list, however, are women. The WNBA's Washington Mystics may play just down the street, but today the White House court will be a woman-free zone.
Asked why no women had made the cut at his daily briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said "the point is well taken."
"The president, obviously, is someone who, as someone who is the father of two young daughters, has an avid interest in their competing against anybody on the playing field," he said. Gibbs said the president has played basketball and other sports with women in the past and will likely do so in the future.
Worth noting here: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was an accomplished college basketball player – and she took something of a shot at the president's game last night.
Mr. Obama has played basketball at least five times since becoming president, according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller – though since there's a court on the grounds of the White House, it's impossible to know exactly how often he's gotten in a game. On February 15th, he played at the Chicago Lab School, his daughters' old school, for two hours; a couple weeks later, he played with friends and aides at the Department of the Interior Gymnasium for about an hour and a half.
(An amusing side note: According to Gibbs, the president claims to have, in pickup games in the past, blocked "several of Reggie [Love's] shots." One block was captured by a White House photographer. The president subsequently had that photograph blown up, and then got Love to sign it – presumably grudgingly.)
Today, marks the first announced game on the White House grounds – and it's not even the only basketball on the president's schedule. Mr. Obama plans to drop by the National Naval Medical Center Marine Wounded Warriors basketball team game earlier in the day. It's also being held at the White House court. Earlier this year, the president invited LeBron James and other professional basketball players to join him on the White House court, though the game has yet to take place.
Past presidents have also had their sporting passions, though Mr. Obama, who also golfs, seems to be the first to bring a passion for basketball to the White House. President George W. Bush golfed for the first two years of his time in office, though he stopped because of the war; Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush were golfers as well. President Reagan rode horses; President Carter played tennis. President Ford was both a skier and football player.
So what might come out of today's game? Steve Tomaszewski, press secretary for Congressman John Shimkus, one of the two Republicans taking the court, said Shimkus expects that "there might be a chance for legislative discussions, but it also might just be a very social event."
"Athletics for him is a stress reliever, and he presumes that's the same for the president," Tomaszewski said of Shimkus, a semi-regular in the House gym, where bipartisan pickup games sometimes take place in the afternoons.
As for why Shimkus is heading to the White House for the game, Tomaszewski had a simple answer.
"You get an invitation to join the president at the White House," he said, "you don't question the activity involved."