CHICAGO _ As Barack Obama raced up and down a Chicago basketball court Tuesday afternoon, those who played with him said the future president was in a serious mood as the enormity of what might await weighed him down.
Hours before learning the result of his nearly two-year bid for the presidency, about 30 aides, friends and Secret Service agents joined Obama for two hours of play at a West Side gym.
“You can imagine the enormity of what today means,” said Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who was playing for his third time with Obama. “He was in a serious mood.”
Before traveling to Chicago’s Grant Park to speak before tens of thousands of supporters _ a massive nighttime stage framed by his home city’s skyscrapers _ Obama watched the returns from a suite at the Hyatt Regency Chicago on East Wacker Drive.
He was joined by family, friends and key aides, including top strategists David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, as well as campaign manager David Plouffe and friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Earlier, Obama spent several hours at his Kenwood neighborhood home, eating a steak dinner with his wife, Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha and other family.
Obama’s campaign headquarters had been packed much of the evening, before many staff members made the trip to Grant Park before his speech. Workers manned their desks, leaping out of their seats, cheering and giving high-fives as various states were called for their candidate.
At the Hyatt, Obama took calls of congratulation from Sen. John McCain and President Bush, with the president’s call coming shortly after 10 p.m.
Obama’s tradition of playing basketball started the day he won the Iowa caucuses in January.
After failing to play on the day of the New Hampshire primary _ an unexpected second-place finish _ he insisted on playing on every day there was balloting during the primary season.
Among the Chicago friends who played were public schools chief Arne Duncan, Harvard friend Dr. Eric Whitaker, campaign treasurer Marty Nesbitt and Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.