COLUMBIA — The most powerful man in Missouri is not the state's best free-throw shooter.
As a participant in the Show-Me State Games' men's basketball skills competition Saturday at Hearnes Center, Gov. Jay Nixon made 15-of-25 free throws and 5-of-12 3-point attempts. Nixon, who played basketball in high school in DeSoto, earned only a participatory medal for his performance.
Sporting a bright yellow Mizzou basketball T-shirt and red Nike sneakers, Nixon, who competed in the 50-and-older division, started off slowly after taking only a handful of warm-up shots. Nixon has a unique style of shooting, kicking his legs forward as he takes his shot. In the free-throw shooting competition, Nixon had a nice stretch of made baskets, making four consecutive shots. But overall, the governor shook more hands than he made baskets.
Nixon, who has had three knee surgeries, made no excuses for his performance, saying he wasn't affected by the crowd and the camera flashes that accompanied his shooting session.
"You kind of get used to people laughing at you when you're a politician, so it's not that big of a deal," Nixon said. "It's not as much pressure as there is on those kids when there's 18,000 people watching and it determines who goes to the Big 12 championship."
Nixon, sweaty after the competition, said he was happy to join in on the festivities.
"It's a rich tradition, you can feel here in Columbia and mid-Missouri. It just lights up this community for these weekends," Nixon said. "Clearly these are the best state games in the country, and we want to make sure we continue that tradition."
Nixon said he wants to expand the games to help promote health and wellness among Missourians.
Ken Ash, executive director of the Show-Me State Games said he hopes Nixon can follow through on that ambition.
"You read the information in Missouri, and we're in bad shape, literally," Ash said. "So any politician, and particularly the governor, comes out and promotes health and fitness, that's great."
Nixon, who has both coached and competed in the Show-Me State games, encouraged all Missourians to not just support the games, but to also compete.
"People should all participate," Nixon said. "Some parents I've seen here, watching their kids play, there are other sports going on too. They can go out and do putt-putt golf, they can do the 5K or even just shooting hoops. Not only watching, but participating is very important."