Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is still BFFs with North Korea’s “dear leader,” Kim Jong Un. He’s even planning a Jan. 8 exhibition game with 12 other ex-NBA players in Pyongyang for Kim’s birthday, the Associated Press reports.
Rodman’s visit comes almost a week after North Korea announced the execution of the “traitor of all ages,” Jang Song Thaek, Kim’s uncle and one of the country’s most powerful figures before his fall from grace.
The execution sparked questions over Kim’s rule and the stability of the regime, but Rodman isn’t interested in the details. “I can’t control what they do with their government; I can’t control what they say or how they do things here,” he said, according to the AP. “I’m just trying to come here as a sports figure and try to hope I can open the door for a lot of people in the country.
“I’ve come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that,” Rodman, the most recognizable American to visit Kim, added. “I’m very proud to say he’s my friend, because he hasn’t done anything to put a damper, to say any negative things about my country.”
The roster for the game is still unknown, but Rodman will also train North Korean basketball players during his stay, among other plans. He also said that if, after returning home, the 12 other former players had a good impression of the country, his mission would be accomplished.
“North Korea has given me the opportunity to bring these players and their families over here so people can actually see, so these players can actually see, that this country is actually not as bad as people project it to be in the media,” he said.
Read more at the Associated Press.