PYONGYANG, North Korea – Dennis Rodman said Monday that a game he and other former National Basketball Association players are planning in North Korea will be a “birthday present” for one of their most unlikely fans: leader Kim Jong Un.
Rodman’s squad featuring ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker will play against a team of North Koreans on Wednesday, which is believed to be Kim’s birthday.
The former NBA players, who arrived in Pyongyang on Monday, also include Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, guard Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith, a former New York Knick. Four streetball players also are on the squad.
Rodman told the Associated Press he was glad to be in North Korea for the game, though he said he has gotten death threats for his repeated visits. He said proceeds from the game would go to a charity for the deaf in North Korea.
“The marshal is actually trying to change this country in a great way,” Rodman said of Kim, using the leader’s official title. “I think that people thought that this was a joke, and Dennis Rodman is just doing this because fame and fortune.” Instead, he said, he sees the game as a “birthday present” for Kim and his country.
“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 said. “I hope people will have a different view about North Korea.”
NBA commissioner David Stern issued a statement Monday night.
“The NBA is not involved with Mr. Rodman’s North Korea trip and would not participate or support such a venture without the approval of the U.S. State Department,” Stern said. “Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them.”