Alonzo Mourning sometimes slips and calls his friend Barack. In turn, the leader of the free world calls the former Miami Heat star Zo. That's how close the two have become since Mourning stepped up to support President Obama's first national campaign, Politico reports.
They have much in common besides a passion for sports, including an interest in helping underprivileged children and figuring out what they're going to do with the rest of their lives. But, according to the publication, the fast friends basically just like to hang.
"You get caught up in the fact that he's so personable you do forget that he's the most powerful man in the world," Mourning told Politico. "That's what he wants when he's around his friends. He doesn't want to be strictly political every time that he's around us. I think he just wants to relax and exhale."
Mourning, whose Mourning Family Foundation has spent more than $10 million on programs for children in South Florida, is particularly impressed by an ongoing commitment both the president and First Lady Michelle Obama have made to empowering young people that will likely grow even more when they leave the White House in 2016.
"No other president has made it more of a priority," the now-philanthropist told Politico.
The admiration is mutual.
At a June fundraiser hosted by Mourning and his wife, Tracy, the president declared him "one of his favorite people." Obama also called him to offer congratulations on being selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame, the publication reports, which Mourning says was "pretty special."
Their bond is strong enough that sometimes Mourning forgets that Obama is no ordinary guy.
"Out of respect, I call him Mr. President. But I kind of catch myself sometimes because of how comfortable you get around him, and you kind of exhale a little bit and forget that you're around the president. But I probably have called him Barack more than a couple of times," he explained. "He just calls me Zo."
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
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