Whether it’s his green hair, his many piercings or the famous women he’s dated, ex-basketball player Dennis Rodman has been a media fixture for quite some time. And in the past year, he’s buddied up with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and received international attention as a result.
In fact, Rodman’s recent trip to the country marks his third visit in just 10 months and he’s mentioned several times that he considers Jong Un a close personal friend, which is why the hall of famer is holding tryouts in the city of Pyongyang for a scheduled exhibition game.
The game is supposed to take place on Jan. 8, and will include 12 NBA veterans against a North Korean team that Rodman puts together. However, there’s a chance the game won’t go on because some of the American players are hesitant.
“You know, they’re still afraid to come here,” said Rodman in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I’m just telling them, you know, don’t be afraid man, it’s all love, it’s all love here. I understand what’s going on with the political stuff, and I say, I don’t go into that venture. I’m just doing one thing for these kids here, and for this country, and for my country, and for the world pretty much.”
Rodman has received a lot of criticism for his relationship with Jong Un, especially from Secretary of State John Kerry, who famously said international diplomacy isn’t the ex-Chicago Bull’s strong suit.
“Dennis Rodman was a great basketball player,” said Kerry in an interview with NBC News. “And as a diplomat, he is a great basketball player. And that’s where we’ll leave it.”
Forbes.com writer Gordon Chang, who’s an expert on North Korean affairs, said Jong Un serves to benefit from his relationship with Rodman the most, and he’ll use this game to show that the North Korean government is fully intact, which isn’t completely true.
“Got to remember that Kim Jong Un needs to show that his regime, his government, is united, which it isn’t,” said Chang. “With Dennis Rodman, we’re going to see a lot of made-for-television events. Everybody’s going to be smiling, everything will appear normal, and this will bolster the regime.”
Rodman’s says the exhibition game is the first step between easing tensions between the United States and North Korea, no matter what the outcome of the game is.
“It’s not about win or loss. It’s about one thing, unite two countries,” he said.
Image via Wikimedia Commons