Get to know a Celebrity All-Star Game participant: Arne Duncan
He's no Uncle Drew, but the 49-year old Duncan -- who some refer to simply as "Dunk" -- has been balling for decades. He began building a reputation as a great player growing up in Chicago, where he developed a friendship with Craig Robinson, who is no w Oregon State's men's basketball coach and the brother of a certain current First Lady. He got to know Michelle and, through her, Barack Obama -- a relationship that would ultimately come in handy when it came time for Obama to name a Secretary of Education after winning the 2008 election.
Basketball also provided Duncan a top-notch education; he was a highly sought-after recruit and college coaches reportedly called his house constantly but Duncan had his sights set on the Ivy League.
He ultimately chose Harvard over Princeton and, in 1983-84, his first season as a member of the Harvard varsity team, he averaged 11 ppg and finished second on the team in assists. The following season he maintained a double digit scoring average and boosted his rebounding numbers by nearly 1.5 a game.
Though he was emerging as one of the Crimson's top players, Duncan took the '85-'86 season off to focus on school. A 1985 article in The Crimson, Harvard's newspaper, noted that his decision was "leaving his thesis stronger but the Crimson forward line weaker." Harvard went from a 15-9 record in '84-'85 to 6-20 when Duncan sat out. Coincidence?
The 6'5" Duncan returned in '86-'87 as a co-captain and finished at or near the top of his team in a variety of statistical categories. He averaged 16.9 points, 3.5 assists, and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 50% from the floor and 43% from beyond the arc.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1987, Duncan unsuccessfully tried out for the Boston Celtics then moved to Australia, where he played pro ball while working a government job until 1991. There he met his wife, Karen, a native of Australia, before returning to the U.S. where he continued doing great things for children and the education system in Chicago. But all of those later accomplishments aren't basketball-related, so I choose to ignore them.
What really matters (sarcasm) is that his basketball career got revitalized thanks to his fringe-fame as the Secretary of Education. He's a noted regular in President Obama's pickup games -- including Obama's famous election day game -- and he's even played in pickup games with Michael Jordan.
He got back into the hoops spotlight in 2011 when he participated in his first Celebrity All-Star game. Duncan helped lead the East team, coached by Bill Walton, to a 54-49 win (Note: Justin Bieber won MVP despite playing for the losing team). He continued his excellent all-around play in 2012, scoring 17 points and tallying 8 boards as part of the East's 86-54 romp. Last year, Duncan again stuffed the stat sheet and finished the game with an impressive 11-7-5 performance in a 58-38 defensive struggle that his West team won.
In both 2012 and 2013, Kevin Hart took home the MVP honors, with no complaints from the consummate teammate and ever-selfless Arne Duncan. Duncan has talked about the valuable life lessons that basketball can teach and he still uses his hoops experience to reach kids, but come All-Star weekend, I just want to see the guy ball out of his mind.
Having scouted Arne, I'm sure the savvy veteran will stick to his game plan of setting screens, directing traffic, crisp bounce passes and other fundamentally sound ball. But how great would it be to see him let loose and give the people what they've wanted for years. Get that hardware, Arne!