May 25 (Bloomberg) -- At 5-foot 8-inches, 48-year-old Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner may not seem like much of a threat on the basketball court. Those who know him say: Think again.
Geithner is a “sports nut and is up for playing or trying any sport someone suggests,” said Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams.
That was the case May 23 in China where he quickly swapped stiff dress shoes for a pair of Nike sneakers to play basketball with students at Renmin University High School in Beijing. He made at least two baskets.
The seemingly shy, wonky Treasury secretary has been in China for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, where he was discussing issues that are more traditionally in his purview, such as the revaluation of the yuan and Europe’s debt crisis.
“A lot of folks have underestimated Secretary Geithner in a lot of ways, and the basketball court’s one place where he’s been underestimated,” said U.S. Representative Rick Larsen, 44, a Washington state Democrat who played with Geithner and President Barack Obama at an Oct. 8 game at the basketball court on the White House’s South Lawn. He said he and Geithner covered one another during much of the game.
“He definitely is a credible basketball player, one that you would choose to have on your team,” said Representative John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican who also played in the after-work contest. He has “good ball-handling skills” and he’s fast on the court, Shimkus, 52, said in an interview.
Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina, 38, a Democrat and former professional football player who also was part of the basketball game, said he thought Geithner was “surprisingly” good.
And Obama personal aide Reggie Love, who played on the basketball team at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, said in an interview that he’s played ball with Geithner twice and the Treasury secretary has “great foot speed” and is in “really good shape.”
In a follow-up e-mail, Love, 28, said Geithner, who is married and has two children, is “obviously not the biggest player on the court” at 1.72 meters. Still, he said, the secretary “isn’t timid on the court; very aggressive and will mix it up.”
Geithner’s athleticism is well known among other friends and colleagues -- he plays tennis, softball and soccer, runs, surfs and snowboards, among other recreational activities, Treasury spokesman Williams said. In April, he played cricket while visiting India.
He played basketball on a team made up of employees at the New York Federal Reserve when he served as its president before Obama picked him for his Cabinet, and he played on a U.S. Treasury softball team when he worked at that agency in the 1990s.
Geithner’s resume doesn’t foreshadow his athletic endeavors since he entered the work world. He didn’t play for any varsity or club teams at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he got his bachelor’s degree in government and Asian studies in 1983. In 1985, he graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington with a master’s in International Economics and East Asian Studies.
In addition to his sports acumen, Geithner was complimented on Chinese television by talk show host Chen Luyu for being one of the Obama administration’s best-looking officials. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was traveling in Asia with Geithner, joined in the praise.
“He always looks so good, you know?” Clinton said on the show “A Date with Luyu.” “It’s maddening,” she said.
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