It was a quote striking for its flippant tone even in January, as President Obama compared the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to a wannabe junior varsity basketball team.
"The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant," Obama told The New Yorker. "I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian."
ISIL, now in control of large portions of Iraq and Syria, has the full attention of the U.S. now.
Amidst its violent rampage through Iraq as it seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate, ISIL posted a video this week of a member beheading American journalist James Foley. Another terrorist declared ISIL's goal to raise the group's flag above the White House.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey held a press conference Thursday condemning Foley's murder and laying out the "imminent threat" this "barbaric" terror group poses to the U.S.
"We are pursuing a long-term strategy against ISIL because ISIL clearly poses a long-term threat," Hagel said. "We should expect ISIL to regroup and stage new offenses."
Hagel described the ways in which ISIL members "massacre and enslave innocent people."
Dempsey added the group has an "apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision."
After reading out Obama's JV quote on an episode of The Lead, CNN's Jake Tapper asked, "Just how badly did President Obama underestimate the threat of ISIL?"
Hagel might have answered that question at his press conference.
"ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen," he said. "They're beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. Oh, this is beyond anything that we've seen. So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is that you take a cold, steely, hard look at it and — and — and get ready."