Rodman's 'Space Jam' Redux
If everything goes as planned -- a perhaps unlikely scenario -- Dennis Rodman and a group of former National Basketball Association players will square off tomorrow against a team of North Koreans in an exhibition game in Pyongyang.
I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything quite like this -- at least, not since the 1996 movie “Space Jam,” in which Michael Jordan led Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck in a game against a team of totalitarian aliens.
In “Space Jam,” Jordan, Bugs & Co. played to prevent the aliens from turning MJ into an attraction at their drab, Stalinist amusement park, Moron Mountain. The movie's premise was only a little more far-fetched than the idea of Rodman and other washed-up NBA players -- Team America! -- bringing peace and freedom to the hermit kingdom.
If nothing else, Kim Jong Un should have a good time. The North Korean dictator loves basketball. In fact, his friend Rodman arranged for the game in part as a birthday present -- happy 30th, Dear Leader!
The New York Times described Rodman’s Dream Team as “improbable emissaries.” Indeed. It includes Vin Baker, whose career was shortened by binge drinking, and Doug Christie, who is evidently taking a break from making instructional pornographic videos with his wife. Kenny Anderson, who has fathered five children with five different women, and Craig Hodges, who wore a dashiki to the White House as a member of the champion 1992 Chicago Bulls, are along for the ride.
All the players are already in North Korea. But former New York Knick Charles Smith -- famous for having his four shots beneath the basket rejected in brutal succession as the clock ticked down in a 1993 playoff game against the Bulls -- started having second thoughts after Rodman went berserk in an interview with CNN. (Rodman didn’t appreciate being asked if he was going to bring up the case of imprisoned American missionary Kenneth Bae with his BFF.)
“Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us, and I think that has to do with politics and government,” Smith told the Associated Press. So it turns out that a trip to North Korea is political. Who could have guessed?
“Space Jam” proved to be a severe embarrassment for the Looney Tunes gang. “I can tell you, with the utmost confidence, Porky Pig would never say, `I think I wet myself,’” Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones said after seeing the movie. Rodman and his Tune Squad will be lucky if they leave North Korea with as much of their dignity intact.
(Jonathan Mahler is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)