The flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea to film a television documentary on Tuesday with representatives of the Harlem Globetrotters celebrity team, North Korean state television reported.
It’s the second high-profile US visit this year to North Korea, a country with which it technically remains at war following the Korean war.
The visit comes two weeks after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test in defiance of UN bans against atomic and missile activity.
Rodman, now 51 years old, won five NBA championships in his prime, achieving a mix of fame and notoriety for his on- and off-court antics.
Rodman played in 911 NBA games (573 started), averaging 7.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game.
Rodman was a two-time All-Star, and won the “Defensive Player of the Year” award twice, in 89-90 and 90-91. He led the NBA in rebounds per game 7 times.
Rodman, who sports trademark tattoos and piercings, had his trip to Pyongyang organized by a New York-based television production company, VICE.
“I think most of guys are first time here so hopefully everything is OK and hopefully kids have a good time for the game,” Rodman, sporting a baseball cap and sunglasses, told North Korea’s KCNA.
VICE, which has previously worked in North Korea, said the week-long trip would include running a basketball camp for North Korean children and engaging in community-based games.
Rodman, three members of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, and a film crew from the Vice media company are visiting the communist country to shoot footage for a TV show set to air on HBO in early April, Vice told the Associated Press before the group’s departure from Beijing.
Vice said the Americans hoped to engage in a little “basketball diplomacy” in North Korea by running a sports camp for children and playing games with local people – and by competing alongside North Korea’s top athletes in an exhibition match they hope will be attended by the leader, Kim Jong-un.
“At a time when tensions between the two countries are running high, it’s important to keep lines of cultural communication open, no matter how non-traditional those channels may be,” said Shane Smith, the Vice founder who is hosting the TV series.
“It’s important to show North Koreans that America is not their enemy, and playing a game we both love is a step in the right direction.”
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