Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong Un attended a basketball game together on Thursday, according to Chinese news outlet Xinhuanet. The game, which reportedly ended in a 110-110 tie, was between 12 players on the North Korean side and four Harlem Globetrotters representing the United States.
The former NBA star, along with a small group of Harlem Globretrotters and a documentary film crew, have been in North Korea since Feb. 26 with the hope of playing a few exhibition games to improve relations between the two countries:
During the match, Rodman, who wore dark glasses and a hat, sat to the left of Kim Jong Un. Without any translators, the two talked directly to each other and laughed, witnesses said.
College students and citizens of Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, were also invited to the game. Foreign diplomats and representatives from international organizations were also in attendance, but journalists from outside the country were not allowed. North Korean cheerleaders in miniskirts performed during the intermission, and then during a post-game ceremony a North Korean university presented a banner to the Harlem Globetrotters. Rodman said the game represented a friendship between the two countries.
Rodman is expected to leave North Korea in the next couple of days, but some of the other U.S. delegates with him on the trip will remain until March 5 as they visit Panmunjom on the border with South Korea.
In a New York Times report published the day he arrived, Rodman was quoted as saying he went over to North Korea to "have some fun" and hopes the kids will enjoy his visit:
"We got invited and we just came over to have some fun. Hopefully, everything will be O.K. and the kids will have a good time with the games.”
Kim Jong Il, the former leader of the country, was known as a big basketball fan, which may explain why Rodman has received a rather unusually warm welcome at a time when tensions are rising between the countries. A Michael Jordan-signed basketball was given to Kim Jong Il in 2000 by then Secretary of State Madeline K. Albright and is displayed in the "Hall of Trophies" in North Korea. According to the New York Times report, "Kim Jong-il was obsessed with the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s, a fascination he apparently passed along to his son, the current leader."