Skip to main content

Dennis Rodman is North Korean leader's 'friend for life'

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 8:36 PM EST, Thu February 28, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rodman and Kim Jong Un sit together at a basketball game
  • "Many kind words were spoken and invitations offered," Vice magazine says
  • North Korea's supreme leader is a big basketball fan
  • Rodman's trip to North Korea is for a TV documentary

(CNN) -- Former NBA star Dennis Rodman declared his eternal friendship with North Korea's supreme leader Thursday.

"You have a friend for life," Rodman told Kim Jong Un after the two men sat next to each other watching an unusual basketball exhibition in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Photos of the event, published online by Vice magazine, show Rodman and Kim Jong Un sitting at court side, surrounded by an arena filled with dark-uniformed fans.

The North Korean leader, who is known to be a basketball fan, appears to be engrossed in the competition.

"To see everyone letting their hair down and getting into the match made it all the more worthwhile," said Vice founder Shane Smith. "At the reception afterward, many kind words were spoken and invitations offered."

The game involved a combination of three stars of the Harlem Globetrotters and members of North Korea's "Dream Team." The final score was a 110-110 tie.

When Kim joined the American group for supper, Vice correspondent Ryan Duffy invited the leader to visit the United States. "His invitation was met with laughter," according to a Vice statement.

Dennis Rodman visits North Korea
Dennis Rodman: Goodwill ambassador?

The weeklong trip by these "basketball diplomats" is not an official U.S. mission, but for a TV documentary production. The video will be shown in an installment of a monthly series produced by Vice for HBO.

"I come in peace. I love the people of North Korea!" Rodman, 51, said on Twitter as he arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday.

The visit comes at a time of heightened tension between the United States and North Korea, a result of Pyongyang's pursuit of a nuclear program. Just days ago, North Korea threatened "miserable destruction" in response to routine military exercises planned between South Korea and the United States.

North Korea provoked Western condemnation earlier this month with an underground nuclear test that was preceded by the December launch of a long-range missile capable of transporting a warhead.

Could the connection between Rodman and Kim, who classmates said was a huge basketball fan as a teenager -- when Rodman was winning five NBA championships -- help cool down this international hotspot?

Rodman, whose nickname is "Worm," tweeted that he was "honored to represent The United States of America."

"I'm not a politician. Kim Jung Un & North Korean people are basketball fans. I love everyone. Period. End of story," he tweeted.

Kim, who is believed to be about 29 years old, assumed power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in late 2011.

North Korea's official news agency KCNA reported Thursday that Rodman's delegation was taken to visit the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where past supreme leaders lie in state.

"They paid high tribute to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il before their statues," KCNA reported.

It was unclear whether Rodman, who is accompanied by Globetrotters Bull Bullard, Buckets Blakes and Moose Weekes, will be taken to North Korea's countryside, where aid groups say malnutrition is rampant

According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of thousands of people remain enslaved in prison camps, which are "notorious for horrific living conditions and abuse."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
ISIS has captured the minds of a new generation of global jihadists. What does it mean for al Qaeda?
updated 11:26 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Think that U.S. President Barack Obama has done a back flip on Iraq and Syria? Think again.
updated 11:38 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Treated with all due respect, volcanoes can offer some stunning vistas. Just don't fall in.
updated 1:22 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
The blogger, the hacker, the PM... and Kim Dotcom? New Zealand's election campaign erupts in scandal.
updated 10:36 PM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
In the aftermath of that deadly day, the enemy quickly became clear. But now a plurality of extremist threats tests global resolve.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Soviets put stray dogs into orbit. Then, next thing you know...
updated 5:28 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Her name is Thokozile Matilda Masipa, and she is the woman who will rule whether Oscar Pistorius is a murderer.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
After months -- if not years -- of speculation, the tech giant's first foray into wearables has arrived. Here are our first impressions.
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Steven Sotloff's family believes ISIS paid rebels to alert the group about his location in Syria.
updated 4:05 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Bali might be a popular tourist destination but there are crowd-free corners worth exploring.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Scots are preparing to vote on the future of their country. Will they decide to leave the UK?
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT