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Nation/World

January 7, 2014

Rodman, ex-NBA All Stars arrive in North Korea

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Dennis Rodman said yesterday 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 tomorrow, which is believed to be Kim’s birthday. The former NBA players, who arrived in Pyongyang yesterday also include Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, guard Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith, who played for the New York Knicks. Four streetballers are also 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.”

The game will be another milestone in Rodman’s surprising relationship with Kim, who rarely meets with foreigners and about whom very little is known outside of North Korea. Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power after his father, Kim Jong Il, died in late 2011.

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