How often do Barack Obama, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un tune into the same TV channel at the same time? That rare occurrence is likely happening tonight, thanks to TNT‘s live broadcast of the NBA All-Star Game.
The unifying power of hoops sports was in evidence at the Obama end in other ways this week. The State Department‘s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs has partnered with the league for a new “sports envoy” program. Starting February 22nd, Hall of Famer George Gervin (a.k.a. “The Iceman”, pictured) and WNBA star Katie Smith will be in Mumbai for a couple of weeks’ worth of clinics, meetings and other community events.
Consider the State Department description of this new initiative, and think of North Korea as you read it:
“Sports diplomacy envoys build on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s vision of ‘smart power diplomacy,’ which embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools – in this case the game of basketball – to bring people together and foster greater understanding among people and cultures.”
Who better to drop into the mix at this tense time in NK–U.S. relations than “The Iceman,” a Detroit native considered one of the best shooting guards in NBA history and now one empowered by the State Department. It’s just a hoop, skip and a jump from Mumbai to Pyongyang. I say make North Korea stop #2 for Gervin and Smith; certainly can’t hurt.