Kareem Abdul-Jabbar named Global Cultural Ambassador

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Few people can represent both the diversity and opportunity in the United States like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

So he makes an interesting and smart choice as a United States Global Cultural Ambassador, something Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton named him on Wednesday, the White House announced.

He will soon be going to Brazil in his new role, trying to strengthen already strong cultural bonds with the land of Renaldo and Nene. Next week he will be there meeting with some of the less well off youth of that nation and discuss the importance of education, social and racial tolerance, cultural understanding, and using sports as a means of empowerment. Of course, there will also be basketball clinics, Kareem is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, six-time NBA champion, six-time MVP, 19-time All-Star, owner of the most devastating shot in the history of the game, and the man behind a legendary movie role as co-pilot Rodger Murdoch.

“I am excited and honored to serve my country as a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State,” said Abdul-Jabbar in a released statement. “I look forward to meeting with young people all over the world and discussing ways in which we can strengthen our understanding of one another through education, through sports, and through greater cultural tolerance.”

Kareem is a complex person, not one that fits neatly into our predefined boxes of what a sports star should be. That rubs some people the wrong way, and he is not by his nature a person who loves the public spotlight on his private life. But he is a person committed to the promotion of education. He’s an author, helped make a documentary about the Harlem Rens — combining his love of African-American history and hoops — and is a man who has taken advantages of the opportunities granted him to live a full and interesting life. To me, that makes him a great ambassador of our American culture.

Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.

When both join forces…

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.

It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.

A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)

Harry How/Getty Images
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Lonzo Ball draws outsized attention because his father, LaVar Ball, lures onlookers and because the rookie plays for the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.

So, when Lonzo gets a triple-double – like his 11-points, 16-rebound, 11-assists game against the Nuggets yesterday – it draws scrutiny.

Mo Dakhil of The Jump Ball:

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.

But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice

So, criticize/laugh at the Lakers. But your favorite team probably manipulates assists in its favor, too.

Robin Lopez and T.J. Warren exchange contact, heated words (video)

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Robin Lopez whacked T.J. Warren in the head while chasing an offensive rebound. Warren didn’t like that, so he ran to the opposite end of the court and shoved Lopez to the floor. A heated confrontation ensued, though it didn’t escalate beyond yelling.

Warren received a flagrant foul, and Lopez was hit with a technical in the Suns’ 113-105 win over the Bulls.

Lakers blow 5-on-1 fastbreak (video)

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Corey Brewer is better at finishing fastbreaks than leading them.

Nice defense by Emmanuel Mudiay, too.

But at least the Lakers won.