Shaquille O’Neal Holds Basketball Clinic for Cuban Youth in Havana

Lead Photo: Photo by Ramón Espinosa
Photo by Ramón Espinosa
Read more

Shaquille O’Neal was just named the U.S. Department of State’s first-ever basketball envoy to Cuba. As part of his new role, he organized a basketball clinic with youth in Havana. The four-time NBA champion helped Cuban kids in layup drills and coached scrimmages while people cheered from the sidelines, and the photos of Shaq with the kids are absolutely heartwarming.

Relations between the United States and Cuba were hostile for over 50 years, until President Obama announced the two nations would be renewing diplomatic relations last year. The sports world has been a way for the two countries to strengthen their relationship, with Shaq’s visit being the latest in a string of sporting events intended to foster cultural exchange.

“Baseball, soccer, basketball – it’s about sports, you know,” O’Neal said to The Associated Press. “We share a lot of things in common. We just want to come over here and extend our friendly hand and just start smoothing things out.”

In 2015, former NBA players Steve Nash and Dikembe Mutombo and former WBNA player Ticha Penicheiro joined NBA coaches for a four-day basketball camp in Cuba. In March, the Cuban national team played against the Tampa Bay Rays with Obama and Castro in attendance.

The Diplomat’s tour in Cuba is expected to run through Tuesday.