Dennis Rodman and a group of ex-All Star players—including Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker—have arrived in North Korea as they prep for Wednesday’s game against a home team in honor of leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday, which is believed to be the same day as the match.
Rodman, who considers Kim a “friend,” told the Associated Press that he has received death threats for his repeated visits to the secretive country, whose regime regards Americans as enemies. However, Rodman has been a staunch defender of his friend Kim and the country.
“The marshal is actually trying to change this country in a great way,” Rodman said of Kim, according to the AP, using Kim’s official title. “I think that people thought that this was a joke, and Dennis Rodman is just doing this because [of] fame and fortune.
“Just to even have us here, it’s an awesome feeling. I want these guys here to show the world, and speak about North Korea in a great light,” he added. “I hope people will have a different view about North Korea.”
Tensions are still high, however, as the totalitarian regime has threatened to use its nuclear weapons. Kim also recently executed his second-in-command (and uncle) for allegedly trying to overthrow Kim.
However, it seems that at least some of the ex-NBA teammates are upbeat about the trip.
Charles Smith, a former Knicks player, voiced his hope that the game could lead to a better relationship between the two countries.
“It’s new being here, but overall the concept is not new,” he told the AP. “The team is made up of a lot of guys who really care. That’s the most important—it’s not about bringing Dream Teamers. It’s about guys who are coming that want to be a part of this, that care, and really that care about humanity.”