Kim Jong-Un may have executed his uncle last month but Dennis Rodman is not going to preach.
“I am not going to sit there and go in and say ‘hey guy, you’re doing the wrong thing,” the former NBA star said ahead of arriving in Pyongyang, where his all-star team will take on a host squad in an exhibition match on Thursday.
“The Worm” believes the game will do more for peace than discussion of labor camps and torture, and has persuaded several retired legends to join him.
Craig Hodges (53)
Then: Capable 3-point shooting specialist who won two NBA championship playing with Michael Jordan at the Chicago Bulls in the early 1990s.
Now: Still in the game as coach of Halifax, Canada. Had to take time off in-season to make the trip.
Vin Baker (42)
Then: Skilled 6″11 (2.10m) center who starred in four All-Star teams and won gold with Team USA in the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Now: Bounced back from crippling alcoholism to study divinity in the hope of becoming a pastor.
Doug Christie (43)
Then: Stalwart “glue guy” and defender for the star-packed Sacramento Kings of the early 2000s.
Now: Appearances on reality TV, charity work and produces porn movies with wife Jackie.
Charles D. Smith (48)
Then: 6″10 (2.08m) power forward of the New York Knicks averaged 14.4 points per game during his career, before knee injuries forced him to retire in 1997.
Now: Motivational speaker and sometime entrepreneur working in digital media.
Kenny Anderson (43)
Then: Vaunted point guard at college level who never lived up to his true potential at the pros. Picked in All Star Game 1994.
Now: Coaching career derailed by arrest for drink-driving. Made several reality TV appearances.
Cliff Robinson (47)
Then: Wiry 6″10 (2.08m) forward combined physicality and finesse as one of the league’s tallest legitimate 3-point shooters. Won an All Star game berth in 1994.
Now: Runs a philanthropy network with various media appearances.
Rodman himself picked the 12-man squad from trials featuring current national team players. “Very quick and good shooters,” according to a sponsor source present at the trials, although the North Korean players will be an average six inches (15.2 cm) shorter than the Americans.
Supporters of the tour believe North Korean and US sports fans will be exposed to the other’s culture, which is normally impossible while they are officially at war. But Korea expert Dr. Aidan Foster-Carter of Leeds University, UK, believes it is “pure self-indulgence for both parties…with no value in diplomacy.”
It is not the first time North Korea has attempted to improve its image with sport – a Japanese wrestler was recently a guest of Jong-Un’s executed uncle Jang Song Thaek. The hosts may be unwilling to risk defeat; “I wouldn’t be surprised if they rig it,” says Foster-Carter.