A Three-Pointer Is Worth Four in North Korea

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 4 2013 11:53 AM

North Korea Plays By Its Own Crazy Rules, in Basketball as in Life

Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un watch an exhibition basketball game in North Korea

Photo byJason Mojica/VICEmagazine

I'm a few days late to this, but given Dennis Rodman is still in the headlines this morning for his trip to North Korea, I'm going to flag it for you anyway because it's significantly more interesting than Rodman's nuanced analysis of geopolitics. Basketball, which along with best-friends-forever friendship was at the heart of Rodman's visit to the reclusive nation, is a rather simple game at its heart. Free throws are worth one point, three-pointers are worth three points, and everything else is worth two points. Whichever team scores the most points wins. Like I said, pretty simple.

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Well, that doesn't appear to be the case in North Korea, where Kim Jong-un and his similarly hoops-obsessed late father appear to have rewritten the rule book of the game they love, something that the U-T San Diego noticed back in 2006 (h/t Foreign Policy):

... in North Korea, where basketball, with little contact with the outside world, has evolved like the tortoises in the Galapagos Islands. Chinese media have reported that the country even developed its own scoring system, with three points for a dunk, four points for a three-pointer that does not touch the rim and eight points for a basket scored in the final three seconds. Miss a free throw, and it's minus one.

So, yeah, there's that. We don't know much about the exhibition game that Rodman and Kim Jong-un took in while sitting side by side last week—including whether they played by the host country's rather unique set of scoring rules—but we do know that the game ended in a 110-110 tie, which we suppose would have been rather anticlimactic unless of course one team had been trailing by eight points with only a second left on the clock.

Much more on North Korea and basketball in the U-T piece.

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