HAVANA (AP) — NBA great Shaquille O’Neal has become the latest emissary for American outreach to the people of Cuba.
O’Neal is putting on a basketball clinic on public courts in Havana, part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored mission to foster people-to-people exchanges with Cuban citizens.
The four-time NBA champion led kids in layup drills and coached scrimmages on Sunday while onlookers cheered from the sidelines.
O’Neal said the mission aims to extend a “friendly hand” and smooth U.S.-Cuban relations, which were openly hostile for over five decades before diplomatic ties were restored last year under presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro.
Cuban teen Juan Navarrete said it’s a thrill to see an NBA star up close and he aspires to maybe make the big leagues someday.