Dennis Rodman, the basketball Hall of Famer who once wore a wedding gown to promote his autobiography, told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, “You have a friend for life,” after an exhibition game in the communist nation, according to organizers.
Rodman is touring the country with members of the Harlem Globetrotters and sat alongside Kim during yesterday’s game in Pyongyang, according to VICE, the Brooklyn, New York-based youth media company coordinating the cultural exchange mission for a television series that will air on the Home Box Office Inc. network.
The tour comes amid escalating tensions with neighboring countries and the U.S. after North Korea conducted a nuclear test last month.
Rodman, who won five National Basketball Association championships and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011, arrived in North Korea three days ago with Globetrotter players Bull Bullard, Buckets Blakes and Moose Weekes.
Rodman didn’t participate in yesterday’s game, which featured the Globetrotter players split between the two teams that played to a 110-110 tie. He sat next to Kim at a courtside table during the game and the delegation met with Kim for dinner afterward, organizers said in a statement.
Rodman’s party also visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to pay respects before the statues of Kim’s grandfather and father, the official Korean Central News Agency said yesterday.
“They entered the halls where Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il lie in state and paid homage to them,” KCNA said. “They made an entry in the visitor’s book.”
Rodman, 51, is a seven-time NBA rebounding champion who’s known for his tattoos, multicolored hair, piercings and outlandish behavior, such as competing in professional wrestling events.
“We here at VICE are very pleased that Kim Jong Un could make it to the game and that everyone enjoyed themselves so much,” VICE founder Shane Smith said in the statement. “To see everyone letting their hair down and getting into the match made it all the more worthwhile.”
The week-long trip includes exhibition games and a basketball camp for North Korean children, events that tour organizers said are meant to “encourage openness and better relations with the outside world.” The group is accompanied by a production crew that is filming for the HBO series “VICE,” which will premiere in April.
North Korea is the 122nd country or territory visited by members of the Globetrotters, the 87-year-old basketball entertainment troupe whose last trip outside the U.S. was to Afghanistan in November and December.