If Dennis Rodman's latest trip to North Korea wasn't getting enough attention already, his meltdown on national television Tuesday should likely do the trick.
The Hall of Famer has brought seven former NBA players to North Korea to play an exhibition game Wednesday on the birthday of the country's leader, Kim Jong-un. Rodman has repeatedly referred to the trip as an effort to improve "basketball diplomacy," but the venture has caught plenty of flak because of North Korea's politics and human rights record and Rodman's ... peculiar background.
Things got even more peculiar on Tuesday when Rodman and the rest of the ex-NBA players appeared on CNN's New Day with Chris Cuomo. The interview started off civil enough, with Cuomo peppering the players about politics and former Knick Charles Smith playing admirable defense deflecting the questions.
But things eventually boiled over -- as they tend to with Rodman -- which led to a sad combination of mumbling, rambling, screaming and crying from the Worm.
Among the interview's lowlights:
• Rodman's strange decision to go on the air wielding an unlit cigar.
• The mortified faces of Rodman's peers as they watch him self-destruct on live TV.
• Rodman turning the tables on Cuomo and asking him questions about Kenneth Bae, an American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for committing what North Korea called "hostile acts."
• Rodman's repeated use of the phrase "watch this," only to be followed by incoherent nonsense.
• Rodman telling Cuomo, "I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think!"
• Rodman's surprising and painful self-awareness of his place in U.S. culture: "We have to go back to America and take the abuse. Do you have to take the abuse that we're going to take? Do you, sir? Let me know. Are you going to take it -- because we're going to get it."
Smith did his best to keep the interview afloat, injecting bits of common sense and intelligent debating in between Rodman's ramblings. It's clear Smith and the rest of the ex-players realize their place in this equation, even if the man who brought them there doesn't.
"We're not here for any political aspects," Smith said. "We're not here to talk politics. So outside of that, any questions that come back through that is just baiting us to get us to talk about politics and that's not why we're here."
The NBA and the National Basketball Retired Players Association both denounced Rodman's trip. "Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides, this is not one of them," NBA commissioner David Stern said. And if the CNN interview weren't enough, NKNews.org tweeted this picture on Monday showing Rodman, in a trip to North Korea last year, toasting Jong-un's uncle, who was reportedly executed by his nephew in December after being labeled a traitor.