By Jamie Crawford
You can add another title to NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's long and distinguished resume: cultural ambassador.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bestowed the title on the former Los Angeles Lakers star Wednesday for a role that will take him around the world to engage young people in an effort to forge greater understanding of the United States.
"It's a great story that you not only tell, but exemplify, from the streets of Harlem to the NBA," Clinton said at an appearance at the State Department. The secretary, dwarfed by the former Laker, also touted Abdul-Jabbar's foundation, which works to improve children's lives through education and sports.
"I really appreciate the opportunity," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I remember when Louis Armstrong first did it back for President Kennedy, one of my heroes. So its nice to be following in his footsteps."
Abdul-Jabbar also came with some gifts, one of which likely put Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, on the spot. After presenting Clinton with a Lakers jersey bearing his famous number 33, he also gave her a copy of his latest children's book, which he said she could use to read to her future grandchildren.
"Well, let us hope," Clinton said to laughter. "From your lips to God's ears, right?"
"I hope that Chelsea doesn't mind me putting that pressure on her," Abdul-Jabbar said.
The new ambassador is not wasting any time getting to work. He will travel to Brazil next week to meet with underserved youth in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. While there, Abdul-Jabbar will lead conversations with young people on the importance of education, social and racial intolerance, and cultural understanding, the State Department said.
He will also participate in basketball clinics with young people in both cities.