Lifestyle & Belief

Dennis Rodman was North Korea’s second choice for b-ball diplomacy. Guess who was first?


This guy. Dennis Rodman has sung the praises of North Korea's Kim Jong Un, calling the supreme leader "awesome."


Ronald Martinez

Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea — a gimmick conceived by “Vice” magazine’s HBO offshoot — was definitely one of the stranger moments in diplomacy’s recent history.

However, the tattooed, lip-pieced NBA star wasn’t the top choice to become the first American to meet Kim Jong-un. 

Who was? 

“Jordan wasn’t interested,” Shane Smith, the founder and chief executive of the Vice Media Group, told the New York Times

Yep, as in Michael Jordan, Rodman’s former Chicago Bulls teammate, beloved by the North Korean leader’s family. 

Kim Jong-un was a fan of the Chicago Bulls when he was a student in Switzerland in the glory days of the 1990s. 

Kim’s father Kim Jong-il even had a basketball with Jordan’s signature on it gifted to him by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright during better times between the two nations. It now sits in a museum, GlobalPost's Geoff Cain reports from Seoul.   

It comes as no surprise that Michael Jordan would receive invitations to visit North Korea — and that in lieu of his presence, Dennis Rodman became the first American to meet the Supreme Leader of North Korea.

Rodman’s visit certainly provided its share of Twilight-zone level irony, as the Times pointed out: 

Their visit came as North Korea was celebrating the successful test explosion of a nuclear device under Mr. Kim, who threatened to make nuclear war on the United States even as he was embracing Mr. Rodman as a friend.

Mr. Kim attended an exhibition basketball game with Mr. Rodman and feted all of the American visitors to an alcohol-infused banquet, where an all-girl North Korean band played the theme to “Rocky” and Mr. Rodman crooned an impromptu “My Way.”

Though hilarious, and slightly disconcerting, Rodman has been way behind Jordan from the start, in terms of North Korean demand: North Korea's efforts to get Jordan over for a visit date back to 2000

More from GlobalPost: Dennis Rodman in North Korea latest chapter of basketball diplomacy (VIDEO)

GlobalPost Senior Correspondent, Geoff Cain, reported from Seoul, North Korea.