Abdul-Jabbar appointed global cultural ambassador
In a move to engage young people worldwide, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a global cultural ambassador. The NBA Hall of Famer and all-time scoring leader will promote the importance of education, social and racial tolerance, cultural understanding and using sports as a means of empowerment.
His appointment was announced Wednesday by the State Department.
"It's a great honor and I'm thrilled that they see me as the person that could get this done," he said in a phone interview.
The 64-year-old said he remembers a similar program under President John F. Kennedy where speakers came to his school in Harlem. "So now I get to follow in the footsteps of one my heroes," he said.
Ann Stock, assistant secretary of state for education and cultural affairs, said Abdul-Jabbar will travel the world to engage a generation of young people to help promote diplomacy.
Stock said Tuesday the appointment is part of Clinton's vision of "Smart Power" that combines diplomacy, defense and development to "bridge the gap in a tense world through young people."
Abdul-Jabbar said he will share his take on life in America, adding: "I'll be doing a few basketball clinics, too."
He will make his first official trip Sunday when he travels to Brazil for a number of events centering on education.
Since his retirement in 1989, Abdul-Jabbar has been involved in projects focused on African-American history and socio-economic justice. His 2011 documentary, On the Shoulders of Giants, sought to highlight these issues. He has also launched the Skyhook Foundation, which works to improve children's lives through education and sports.
Abdul-Jabbar scored 38,387 points during his 20-year NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
Darvish, Rangers agree to deal
Yu Darvish is coming to America to pitch. Japan's best pitcher and the Texas Rangers agreed before Wednesday's deadline to a $60 million, six-year contract. In addition to the salary, the Rangers will pay a posting fee of about $51.7 million to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan's Pacific League. The deal came at the end of a 30-day negotiating window that began Dec. 19 when the Rangers' bid to negotiate with the pitcher was accepted. The 25-year-old Darvish had a 93-38 record with a 1.99 ERA over the past seven seasons in Japan. The 6-foot-5 right-hander was a two-time Pacific League MVP and a five-time All-Star. He led the league in strikeouts three times, in ERA twice and won two Gold Gloves.
Astros: Outfielder Jack Cust has agreed to a $600,000, one-year contract with the Houston Astros after getting released by Seattle and Philadelphia last year. Cust's deal, announced Wednesday, includes a 2013 team option. The 33-year-old hit .213 with three homers and 23 RBI in 67 games for the Mariners, who released him on Aug. 4. Cust has spent time at designated hitter, which the Astros will need when they move to the American League in 2013.
Twins: Relief pitcher Joel Zumaya and Minnesota have finalized their $850,000, one-year contract. The deal includes $900,000 in performance bonuses for the oft-injured right-hander, who missed all of last season with an elbow injury. He broke a bone in the joint while throwing a pitch for the Tigers against the Twins in June 2010, his last appearance in a major-league game. The 27-year-old hasn't completed a full season since he was a rookie with Detroit in 2006. But he has 210 strikeouts in 209-plus career innings.
Former umpire Springstead dead at 74
Major League Baseball says former umpire Marty Springstead has died. He was 74. The commissioner's office said Wednesday that Springstead was found dead at his home in Florida on Tuesday night. A native of Nyack, N.Y., Springstead was an American League umpire from 1966-85 and worked the World Series in 1973, 1978 and 1983. After retiring from the field, he became the AL's executive director of umpires, then worked as an umpire supervisor for MLB after umpire staffs from the leagues merged. Commissioner Bud Selig said, "Marty mentored a new generation of our umpires, not only in the major leagues but around the world."
Beckham re-signs with Galaxy
David Beckham is staying in Los Angeles for another two years after signing a new contract with the Galaxy on Wednesday. The 36-year-old former England captain signed the two-year deal with the Major League Soccer club after turning down a chance to move back to Europe with Paris Saint-Germain. "This was an important decision for me," Beckham said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. "I had many offers from clubs from around the world. However, I'm still passionate about playing in America and winning trophies with the Galaxy." Beckham made the surprise move to the Galaxy in 2007, joining from Real Madrid on a five-year deal. But he took until last season to lift his first trophy in the United States, winning the MLS Cup in November. Beckham, who started his career at Manchester United, opted against moving to France or returning to the Premier League because his family is settled in California.
U.S. athlete auctions off body space
How much is a spot on an Olympian's shoulder worth? Nick Symmonds put his skin on eBay, offering to wear a temporary tattoo with the name of the highest bidder as he competes for a spot on the U.S. team for the London Games this summer. The stunt wasn't so much to make money as it was to make a point. Symmonds, a four-time U.S. outdoor champion in the 800 meters, is a vocal critic of what he says are the "antiquated" sponsorship rules of track and field's international ruling body, the IAAF, and, to a lesser extent, the guidelines of USA Track & Field. He says those rules limit the amount of money athletes can bring in to pursue their careers. Active lifestyle marketing firm Hanson Dodge Creative bid $11,100.
The last word
Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald, on CBS trying to woo Tim Tebow to work Sunday's AFC Championship as a studio analyst:
"The network is pulling out all stops. I just saw the CBS eye, and it was wearing eye black."