Ted Cruz is no stranger to basketball. The Republican US Senator from Texas can often be seen attending Houston Rockets games, and he has been outspoken in the past regarding his love for the sport.
Back in the summer of 2018, Cruz actually squared off with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel in a game of one-on-one for charity. He challenged Kimmel to the game after the late-night host mocked a photo of Cruz that was taken at the 2018 NBA Western Conference Finals. The game, which Cruz won, generated more than $80,000 for a couple of charities, including the Texas Children’s Hospital and Generation One, a Houston-area non-profit organization.
With one victory under his belt, Ted Cruz is at it again. The Democratic National Committee is set to hold the third of their 2020 presidential debates in Houston on Thursday night. One of the participants will be Andrew Yang, the 44-year-old California businessman that is running for president on a universal basic income platform.
On Wednesday, Andrew Yang posted footage of himself shooting hoops to social media. The post went viral, and many suggested to Cruz that he should challenge the 2020 candidate to a game. Cruz initially dismissed the idea, saying that any candidate he faces in basketball must at least be polling 5% nationwide.
When Yang replied with an image proving he polled at exactly 5%, Cruz relented. Late Wednesday night, the Senator tweeted that he will face Yang in a game of four-on-four on Friday afternoon in Houston. Whichever team loses will give $5,000 to a non-political charity of the winner’s choosing. Yang countered with a proposal to play one-on-one, which Cruz promptly accepted.
So, who will win the latest Ted Cruz basketball challenge? Will he improve his record to 2-0? Or will Yang prove to be a more worthy challenger than Kimmel was? Fortunately, Bovada put odds on the showdown:
Ted Cruz was born in Canada, where basketball isn’t exactly the national pastime. Cruz and his family moved to Texas in the ‘70s, but there is nothing to suggest that he played much organized basketball growing up. He was valedictorian at Second Baptist High School in Houston, so it’s safe to say he wasn’t exactly dominating for the varsity basketball team at the same time.
Regardless, Cruz is clearly a fan of the sport, and he had enough game to beat Kimmel 11-9 when they squared off last summer. That, of course, doesn’t mean Cruz is actually good. It just means he’s slightly better at it than Jimmy Kimmel.
Based on the highlights, Ted Cruz doesn’t have much ability to get to the rim. He’s not the spryest athlete, though he did show the occasional crossover against Kimmel. More often than not, though, Cruz likes to settle for jumpers. It took him nearly an hour to get to 11 points, which isn’t great for his prospects of beating Yang, but he can knock down a jump shot.
There isn’t much of a basketball history to speak of with regard to Yang either. Yang went to a boarding school in New Hampshire and eventually went to Brown University. His biography includes zero mention of basketball but, like Cruz, it seems as though he’s just a casual fan of the sport.
Basketball is a good workout and, clearly, it’s something Yang likes to do in his spare time on the campaign trail. During his aforementioned basketball video, Yang says that he would “school” Donald Trump at basketball, which isn’t really all that bold a claim. Trump is 73 years old and not exactly in peak physical condition.
Andrew Yang can be seen in the video below drilling a three-pointer from the right corner, which isn’t something you see from your typical presidential candidate. He dunks later in the video, but that hoop looks like it’s about 7 feet off the ground.
Former president Barack Obama was a noted hoops aficionado during his time in office. The 44th president had a basketball court installed in the White House, and he could often be seen playing pickup games with various members of his staff. Obama has also been photographed attending numerous NBA and college basketball games.
It’s fair to wonder whether any of Yang’s counterparts in the 2020 presidential field spend much time shooting hoops. Former vice president Joe Biden doesn’t really seem the type, but Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders does have a history with the game. This 2016 article from The Guardian details Sanders’ pickup games during his early years back in Vermont.
Bernie may not have the range that Yang does, but he can still get his shots up there with decent accuracy.
Cory Booker doesn’t have the most fluid jumper, but the effort is there. Beto O’Rourke looks like a basketball player given his lanky 6’4” frame, but there is no evidence whatsoever that the ex-Texas congressman has spent much time hooping in the past.
Based on aesthetics, Yang looks like a more fluid athlete than his counterpart. Cruz was 47 years old at the time he beat Kimmel, who is actually older. Kimmel was 50 at the time the two went head to head. This time around, Yang has the age advantage. The 2020 hopeful is 44, which gives him a four-year advantage against Cruz.
Cruz was good enough to beat Kimmel, but Kimmel wasn’t exactly Hakeem Olajuwon on the basketball court. This could be another closely-contested game, but I’ll happily take the value that comes with betting on Yang to beat Cruz at +125. I imagine he’s listed as the underdog because we have more footage of Cruz hooping, but Yang looks like the superior athlete at this point.
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