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12/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama, Giannoulias Clash On The Court


Barack Obama's favorite campaign stress reliever, basketball, was a source of tension between the candidate and his friend and frequent playing partner, Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, before the Iowa Caucuses, Newsweek reports in its exhaustive "Secrets of the 2008 Campaign":

Obama has always been fiercely competitive and not above stacking his team with the best players. This led to at least one loud argument on the court with his friend Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois state treasurer, in the tense days before the Iowa caucuses. Obama had loaded his team with Love and some other hot shots, and Giannoulias's team was losing badly. "So I got mad and started yelling at him--'I want to win too!' " recalled Giannoulias. "And it got under his skin." Obama responded, with rare heat, "I don't care who I play with. I'll play with anybody! You want to switch teams? We can switch teams if you want!" Giannoulias declined, out of pique more than anything, he recalled. "And then he just gave me this smile," Giannoulias said, mimicking Obama's signature smile, teeth flashing, eyes crinkled, chin slightly tucked in, a surprising gleam of warmth, guaranteed to disarm.

The on-court tension quickly ebbed, as Giannoulias remained an Obama basketball regular and was among those who played in Obama's final campaign trail game on Election Day.

Watch video of Giannoulias discussing that game.