Retired NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea, yes, North Korea, on Tuesday in the latest of a series of visits by American citizens to the Stalinist state. Rodman and three members of the Harlem Globetrotters will engage in “basketball diplomacy,” according to this exclusive Associated Press story on Rodman’s trip. The retired Chicago Bulls star and five-time NBA champion will play an exhibition game with North Korea’s top basketball stars and conduct a basketball camp for children.
“It’s my first time, I think it’s most of these guys’ first time here,” a subdued Rodman told reporters after arriving in Pyongyang airport. “So hopefully everything’s going to be OK, and hoping the kids have a good time for the game.”
This video shows Rodman’s arrival. Much more video will follow. Rodman was accompanied by a reporter for the new HBO news magazine Vice, which will air an episode about the trip after its April debut.
While Rodman and HBO will benefit from the trip, it’s unclear if any North Koreans will. Basketball is enormously popular in North Korea, but reports emerged last month of starvation so extreme that people resorted to cannibalism in isolated cases in the 1990s. At best, Rodman is a distraction. At worst, he is a symbol of the delusional rule of Kim Jong-un and his clique.
The man who served as the Kim family’s personal sushi chef for decades said Kim Jong-un’s biggest passion as a teenager was NBA basketball. The future dictator’s favorite team? The Chicago Bulls.