Dennis Rodman has unveiled the team of former NBA players to play an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea, this month.
Dennis Rodman will lead the team that includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith are on the team, as well. They will play against a top North Korean senior national team on Wednesday, January 8th, marking Kim Jong-un’s birthday.
The former NBA star is the highest profile American to meet Kim Jong-un since the leader inherited power from his father in late 2011.
Dennis Rodman calls the game his version of ”basketball diplomacy.”
”My previous travels have allowed me to feel the enthusiasm and warmth of fans,” he said.
”The positive memories and smiles on the faces of the children and families are a testament to the great efforts we have put into fulfilling our mission wherever we go voiding any politics. We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return.”
Dennis Rodman made his latest visit to North Korea shortly before Christmas to train the North Korean basketball team, though he did not meet with Kim Jong-un.
He said his trips would not be affected by the recent execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle.
Charles D. Smith, who played for the New York Knicks, said he was looking forward to the game with Dennis Rodman.
”Dennis and I are total opposites, but we work very well together,” he said.
”Dennis is one of the few people I know that doesn’t just talk but actually lives a culturally diverse life. We have traveled everywhere together, so I was not surprised with his first visit to North Korea.
”Cultural exchange is about sharing. Sharing ideas and thoughts on education, culture and life.”
Irish betting company Paddy Power PLC, a driving force behind the exhibition, removed its name last month as the title sponsor. The company is still financing the trip and is honoring all contractual commitments.
Dennis Rodman has been criticized for not talking about North Korea’s human rights record, described as one of the world’s worst by activists, the US State Department and North Korean defectors.