Former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman recently returned from his fifth visit in four years to North Korea, the country led by his BFF Kim Jong-un.
Called “one of the most ferocious rebounders in NBA history” by Metro New York’s sports editor Joe Pantorno, Rodman’s fifth trip was sponsored by PotCoin.com, a banking company similar to BitCoin in the marijuana industry.
Kim’s father, “dear leader” Kim Jong-il, was a huge basketball fan (his favorite player was Michael Jordan) and his love of b-ball passed to his son.
But that still doesn’t explain the why and when of this strange bromance between Hall of Famer and NBA bad boy Rodman and the Communist country’s Kim.
Follow this timeline from when Rodman’s relationship with North Korea was merely budding to its full bloom.
Feb. 26, 2013
Rodman and Kim met for the first time when the “Worm” travelled to the isolated country with a Vice documentary film crew and three Harlem Globetrotters. The agenda was “basketball diplomacy.”
May 7, 2013
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American held captive by North Korea for more than two-and-a-half years, possibly owes his life to Rodman. Possibly.
A Seattle Times article asked Rodman to ask for Bae’s release. Rodman answered by tweeting “Ok.”
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) May 7, 2013
May 8, 2013
Rodman tweets his new pal Kim and asked him to “do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.”
I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him “Kim”, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) May 7, 2013
Sept. 3, 2013
Rodman visits North Korea a second time, but says he does not want to be a diplomat and that he hopes to hang out with Kim and “bridge cultural gaps,” ABC affiliate WJLA reported.
Sept. 9, 2013
Rodman reveals the name of Kim’s daughter Ju-ae in an interview with The Guardian. It is unknown how many children Kim has.
Rodman also describes Kim as an “awesome guy.”
“I held their baby Ju-ae and spoke with Ms Ri [Sol-Ju, Kim’s wife] as well,” Rodman said in the interview. “He’s a good dad and has a beautiful family. Kim told me, ‘I’ll see you in December.'”
Rodman says he plans to organize a basketball game between Americans and Korean players.
Dec. 19, 2013
Rodman visits North Korea to meet with Kim. The project discussed is bringing 12 former NBA players to Pyongyang for an exhibition game the following month. The date? Jan. 8 (Kim’s birthday).
Rodman’s third trip is sponsored by Paddy Power, an online betting company, CNN reported.
Gordon Chang, an expert on North Korea and Forbes.com columnist, tells CNN that Rodman’s appearances will strengthen Kim’s regime by propagating the notion that the North Korean government is united.
“With Dennis Rodman, we’re going to see a lot of made-for-television events. Everybody’s going to be smiling, everything will appear normal, and this will bolster the regime,” Chang says.
Jan. 6-9, 2014
Rodman lands in North Korea for the birthday basketball game. The following day, the players and Rodman sit for a heated interview with CNN. When asked about Bae, Rodman implies it was Bae’s fault that he is imprisoned.
“Kenneth Bae did one thing,” Rodman tells the reporter. “If you understand what Kenneth Bae did —do you understand what he did in this country?”
When the reporter asks Rodman to specify what Bae did, Rodman replies, “You tell me, why is he held captive?”
On Jan. 8, Rodman sings “Happy birthday” to his “best friend” Kim, to whom the game is dedicated. Around 14,000 people are in attendance along with former NBA players Charles D. Smith, Vin Baker, Craig Hodges, Doug Christie, Kenny Anderson and Cliff Robinson.
The following day, Rodman apologizes for his comments about Bae, blaming stress and his drinking problem.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” Rodman says, WJLA reported. “It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It’s not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It’s not an excuse, it’s just the truth.”
In a later interview, Rodman tells a reporter that he plans to vacation with Kim in August 2014.
Jan. 18, 2014
Rodman checks into rehab. It isn’t his first time in a rehab facility. Rodman was part of the VH1 reality show “Celebrity Rehab” in 2010.
Nov. 8, 2014
North Korea releases Kenneth Bae. Rodman tries to take credit for it saying he wrote Kim a letter in January asking for Bae’s release “so the Worm could go back to North Korea without getting bashed,” TMZ wrote at the time.
“I understand the crimes [Bae] committed, and ask you my dear friend, the highly respected Marshall Kim Jong Un for his release to show my country how loving and compassionate you and the DPRK can be,” Rodman’s letter reads.
“I ask for your mercy to prisoner Kenneth Bae and would be eternally grateful for his safe return and make a big step towards bridging the gap between our two nations.”
Rodman says he never heard back, but tells TMZ , “No doubt, our trips helped influence Kenneth Bae’s release and I’m happy he is coming home safely.”
Prior to Bae’s release, the Obama administration sent James Clapper, the then-director of national intelligence, as the president’s “personal envoy, with the expressed purpose of bringing these two Americans home,” The New Yorker reported.
Matthew Todd Miller, a 24-year-old man who was arrested while on a private tour, was also released with Bae.
June 12, 2017
After three years, Rodman returns to Pyongyang.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) June 13, 2017
“Anyone who knows Dennis knows he’s trying to use his relationship to open the line of communication and send a message of peace and understanding,” Rodman’s longtime agent Darren Prince says.
Rodman says the purpose of his trip is not to free the three Americans still detained in North Korea.
When asked what President Trump would think of his trip, Rodman replies, “I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”
Rodman knows Trump and Kim, two nuclear-armed leaders. Rodman was a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” when Trump was the host.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) June 15, 2017
The White House denies sending Rodman to North Korea for diplomatic purposes, according to reports.
Days earlier, Otto Warmbier, an American college student sentenced to 15 years hard labor for allegedly stealing a North Korean propaganda sign, was returned to his family on U.S. soil. The 22-year-old was in a coma and died less than a week later.
His family blamed his “awful torturous mistreatment” by the North Koreans.
— Evan Millward (@EvanMillward) June 19, 2017
And it’s not like Rodman is cashing in on his trips or anything.
— Dennis Rodman (@dennisrodman) June 17, 2017