Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Thursday to help finalize plans for an exhibition game in January -- on Kim Jong Un's birthday -- that will feature 12 former NBA players.
Rodman, who has not yet announced the roster for the game, spoke with Eric Talmadge of the Associated Press at his hotel in the country's capital of Pyongyang. The 52-year-old five-time NBA champion is visiting North Korea less than a week after the execution of Jang Song Thaek, a government official who was married to the aunt of Kim Jong Un:
"I can't control what they do with their government, I can't control what they say or how they do things here. I'm just trying to come here as a sports figure and try to hope I can open the door for a lot of people in the country."
Rodman's first known trip to the country came in February when he traveled with a film crew and former Harlem Globetrotters to play an exhibition game with the North Koreans. He visited the country again in September and said his mission in making these trips is to hopefully bridge relations with the U.S. and to show that, in his belief, the country is "not as bad as people project it to be in the media," referring to Kim Jong Un as a "friend for life."
"I've come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that. I'm very proud to say he's my friend, because he hasn't done anything to put a damper, to say any negative things about my country...North Korea has given me the opportunity to bring these players and their families over here, so people can actually see, so these players can actually see, that this country is actually not as bad as people project it to be in the media."
This past September, a week after returning from another trip to the country, Rodman announced at a press conference in New York that he will be training the North Korean basketball team for the 2016 Olympics.GOLLIVER: Video: Heat’s LeBron James angrily confronts Mario Chalmers during huddle