Dennis Rodman is teaming up with three Harlem Globetrotters to run a children’s basketball camp in North Korea. Those are some of the strangest words I’ve written together, but this is actually true. They’re engaging in “basketball diplomacy,” with Rodman playing the role of a basketball-playing Forrest Gump. Apparently, the world’s most likely dictator to have Toni Kukoc in his presumptive Facebook prof pic, Kim Jong Un, loved the 1990s Chicago Bulls. So he loves Rodman. Cool story, Un.
Rodman is joining three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team for a Vice Media production to air on HBO in early April, Vice founder Shane Smith told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview before the group’s departure from Beijing.
Smith said the Americans hope to engage in a little “basketball diplomacy” by running a basketball camp for children and playing pickup games with locals, and by competing alongside top athletes of North Korea — formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
I guess watching Dennis Rodman in North Korea will be entertaining, right?
Rodman might seem an odd fit for an impoverished country where male fashion rarely ventures beyond military khaki and growing facial hair is forbidden. During his heyday in the 1990s, Rodman was a poster boy for excess. He called his 1996 autobiography “Bad as I Wanna Be” — and showed up wearing a wedding dress to promote it.
Shown a photo of a snarling Rodman, piercings dangling from his lower lip and two massive tattoos emblazoned on his chest, one North Korean in Pyongyang recoiled and said: “He looks like a monster!”
To be fair, many Americans would have said the same thing.
North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test two weeks ago, “meant as a deliberate warning to Washington.” I guess it’s up to Rodman to save all of our lives. Apparently most North Koreans don’t know him, but I’m sure they’ll be wooed by his unique charm.
North Korea even had its own Jordan wannabe: Ri Myong Hun, a 7-foot-9 star player who is said to have renamed himself “Michael” after his favorite player and moved to Canada for a few years in the 1990s in hopes of making it into the NBA.
Yes, there’s a 7-foot-9, North Korean Michael Jordan.
In a memoir about his decade serving as Kim Jong Il’s personal sushi chef, a man who goes by the pen name Kenji Fujimoto recalled that basketball was the young Kim Jong Un’s biggest passion, and that the Chicago Bulls were his favorite.
Rodman supposedly “has no special antics up his sleeve.” But he is Dennis Rodman and he is in North Korea, and I’m not entirely sure this will end well.