“Dennis Rodman‘s trip to North Korea wasn’t an accident or an oddity, but the result of a gonzo media company facilitating a summit between a Basketball Hall of Famer and an oppressive dictator who grew up a Bulls fan. But making sense of it doesn’t equip Rodman for the international politics he stumbled into,” Matt Ufford wrote Monday for SB Nation.
“Vice has a reputation for stunt journalism,” Brian Stelter wrote for the New York Times, referring to Vice Media, a Brooklyn, N.Y., media company that is producing “Vice,” a newsmagazine that will have its premiere on HBO on April 5.
Rodman’s trip made headlines and on Sunday landed him on ABC’s political talk show “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, earning the ex-NBA star known as “the Worm” his share of ridicule as out of his depth.
“This is what we know,” Ufford continued in SB Nation:
“Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor Kim Jong Il was an ardent fan of the NBA who, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, had regulation courts at most of his palaces and ‘a video library of practically every game Michael Jordan ever played for the Bulls.’
“In 2000, attempting to warm U.S.-DPRK relations, Madeline Albright gave Kim Jong Il an NBA basketball signed by Jordan that is now on display in a Pyongyang museum. The dictator invited His Airness to North Korea the following year; Jordan declined.
“The basketball addiction was apparently passed on to Kim Jong Un. Kim attended a Swiss high school under an assumed identity, where he wore Air Jordans, displayed pictures of himself with Toni Kukoc and Kobe Bryant, played tenaciously on the court, and ‘spent hours doing meticulous pencil drawings of Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan.’
“Vice Media, which arranged the trip for a newsmagazine that will air on HBO, is no stranger to North Korea. Co-founder Shane Smith has visited the country twice before to make Vice documentaries, and information gathered then spurred the idea for a basketball exhibition starring Rodman and three Harlem Globetrotters. (Vice paid the players an undisclosed sum, according to the New York Times.) Though there was no promise of meeting Kim when the trip began, ‘We knew he’d be tempted by basketball,’ said a Vice spokesman.