Dennis Rodman Lands in North Korea, Let the Gong Show Begin

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 19 2013 6:56 PM

Dennis Rodman Arrives in North Korea (Again)

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Dennis Rodman holds a news conference in September to discuss his last trip to North Korea.

Photo by TIMOTHY CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Some would say palling around with a foreign leader who recently offed his uncle, and second in command, is probably a bad idea. Dennis Rodman is not one of those people. On Thursday, the former-NBA star touched down in North Korea for his third visit to the country run by Kim Jong Un. “I’ve come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that,” Rodman told the Associated Press upon his arrival in Pyongyang. “I’m very proud to say he’s my friend, because he hasn’t done anything to put a damper, to say any negative things about my country.” It’s unclear what constitutes a “damper” for Rodman.

Rodman, dating back to his playing days, has never been the diplomatic sort. But, apparently likes the idea of playing a rogue elder statesman, describing his visits as “basketball diplomacy.” “I can’t control what they do with their government,” Rodman told the AP. “I can’t control what they say or how they do things here. I’m just trying to come up here a sports figure and try to . . . open the door for a lot of people in the country.”

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"I'm just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun," he told Reuters before his trip. The reported itinerary for his stay in North Korea is, in fact, basketball themed. According to CNN, Rodman, with a documentary crew in tow, is scheduled to train a North Korean squad for an upcoming exhibition game in Pyongyang. The Jan. 8th game is reportedly against a group of former-NBA players and is part of a birthday celebration for Kim Jong Un.

Adding to what is already, objectively, a pretty ludicrous situation, Rodman’s trip is being sponsored by the online bookmaker Paddy Power. Executives from the company told the New York Times they struck up the relationship with Rodman after hiring him to help recruit bets on whether a black Pope would succeed Pope Benedict when he stepped down in February.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.