BEJING — Eccentric basketball star Dennis Rodman and several other former NBA players have arrived in North Korea to take part in a controversial basketball game on the birthday of Kim Jong–Un, the country’s young, unpredictable leader.
The friendly contest is planned for Wednesday, when Kim is believed to turn 31, and features a number of NBA old-timers.
It takes place just weeks after North Korea shocked the world by announcing the purge and execution of Kim’s once-powerful uncle.
Darren Prince, Rodman’s agent for 16 years, told CNN on Sunday that Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, Vin Baker, Craig Hodges, Doug Christie, and Charles D. Smith would play against the North Korean Senior National Team. Vin Baker formally played for the Seattle Sonics, among other teams.
As they waited at Beijing airport for their flight on North Korean carrier Air Koryo, Rodman and his teammates told CNN that the main purpose of the trip was sport.
Rodman said it was not his job to address concerns about the repressive state and lobby for the release of detained U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae.
“I’m going to try and interact with him (Kim Jong Un) on that point of love for sports. He loves sports. I like the guy, and he’s an awesome guy to me,” Rodman said. “One thing is about showing people we can actually get along. Let’s get along as human beings, not politicians.”
It will be Rodman’s fourth trip to the secretive and isolated nation, part of a project he has described as “basketball diplomacy.”
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