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Rodman to host exhibition games for Kim Jong Un

ESPN staff
September 10, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Dennis Rodman had hard harsh words for President Barack Obama following a trip to North Korea © AP
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Dennis Rodman has revealed his intention to return to North Korea, and plans to bring a team of former NBA players with him.

Days after returning from his second trip to visit Kim Jong Un - in which he said he became the first foreigner to hold the leader's newborn daughter - Rodman announced plans to stage two exhibition games in North Korea in January.

The first will be held on January 8 - Kim's birthday - with another to follow two days later. Rodman's friendship with the leader has been criticised and led to a couple of testy exchanges during his New York news conference. But Rodman insists Kim is a good person and wants to have better relations with the United States, and that Rodman is the one who can help make it happen with his plan for "basketball diplomacy."

"Why North Korea? It'll open doors," Rodman said.

Touting his friendship with Kim and taunting President Barack Obama for not talking with him, Rodman said he will return to North Korea for a week in December to help select local players for the games. He hopes to have stars such as Karl Malone and former Chicago Bulls team-mate Scottie Pippen.

"Michael Jordan, he won't do it, because he's Michael Jordan," Rodman said.

Rodman also divulged Kim has asked him to train North Korea's players to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

However, Rodman maintained he is not doing the event for money and stated Irish betting company Paddy Power would put up $3.5 million. Paddy Power later stated finances had not been determined.

And Rodman, who joked that he hadn't drawn such a crowd in New York since he wore a wedding dress to a book signing, was adamant this venture was serious; describing it as "groundbreaking".

"People think this is a gimmick. I would love to make this a gimmick ... but it's not about the money," Rodman said.

He rarely referred to Kim by name, frequently calling him "the marshal." Rodman met Kim, a basketball fan, when travelling to North Korea in February for a film project.

Though saying he didn't want to discuss politics, Rodman raised his voice when answering a questioner about Kim's human rights record, and he portrayed himself as the person who could make outsiders see the young leader as different from his father and grandfather.

"He has to do his job, but he's a very good guy," Rodman said. "If he wanted to bomb anybody in the world, he would have done it."

However, Rodman had harder words for Obama, who he spoke angrily about while talking to reporters in Manhattan. He talked around a question about American citizen Kenneth Bae, who was arrested in November and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for what Pyongyang described as hostile acts against the state. Kim has the power to grant special pardons under North Korea's constitution.

Rodman said lobbying for the release of a prisoner wasn't his job, blaming the president for not reaching out to ease tensions between the countries.

"Why, Obama, are you afraid to talk to Dennis Rodman?" Rodman said. "You're not afraid to talk to Beyonce and Jay Z, why not me? Why not me? I'm pretty important now, right?"

Rodman also said he would interview Kim on live television during the trip, although organisers have yet to finalise the details.

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