MILWAUKEE – It isn’t often professional athletes turn into fans and become star-struck.
But that was the case on Thursday night before the Milwaukee Bucks-Boston Celtics playoff game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. When President William Jefferson Clinton strolled into the Bucks’ locker room, several Bucks players put everything they were doing on hold.
Bucks center Thon Maker sought a photo with the 42nd president of the United States while others requested an autograph. Clinton graciously obliged each and every request.
“It was dope; it was awesome,’’ Bucks veteran point guard Brandon Jennings said. “It’s not every day you get to meet a president.’’
Bucks forward Jabari Parker concurred.
“It was big meeting him; it was special,’’ Parker said. “He was the first president I remember while growing up (in Chicago). That’s a hero we met tonight.’’
The 71-year-old Clinton, an avid basketball fan, attended the game as a guest of Bucks’ tri-majority owner Marc Lasry. Clinton and Lasry hung out before the game and then sat next to each other during the game at courtside, directly across from the Bucks’ bench.
While Clinton didn’t deliver an inspirational “Win one for the Gipper’’ pre-game speech, Bucks forward Shabazz Muhammad said Clinton’s appearance gave the Bucks an emotional lift in their 97-6 victory over the Celtics, which evened the best-of-seven game series. The decisive Game 7 will be played Saturday night in Boston.
“It was nice to meet him,’’ Muhammad said. “I think he helped us get ready for the game; he being here gave us a boost of energy.
“He was a big-time president and he’s still a big-time influencer.’’
Maker agreed and used the occasion to appeal to Clinton to help resolve the on-going civil war in South Sudan, Maker’s native country. It is estimated more than 300,000 people have been killed in the war with untold countless atrocities.
The 21-year-old Maker, along with his younger brother Matur and aunt, were able to escape the civil war by escaping to Uganda. Then, when Thon was five years old, they moved to Australia as refugees.
“We talked a little bit about South Sudan,’’ said Maker, who was born in Wau, South Sudan. “My people are killing themselves and we need to find some peace.
“The fighting and killing going on back home is tragic. I’m trying in my little way to bring peace there and I talked to him about that. He was a good listener.
“It was awesome to meet him.’’