Dennis Rodman: Basketball Diplomat

When Dennis Rodman played in the NBA from 1986 to 2000, he was a monster. His defensive instinct and constant presence on the boards frustrated his opponents, and were integral parts of the Detroit Pistons’ 1989 and 1990 championships, and the Chicago Bulls’ 1996, 1997 and 1998 championships.

Rodman was also a huge character. From the colored hair he sported in the later part of his career, to the many fights he got in due to his testy personality, Rodman was always one to entertain on the main stage. “The Worm,” as he was called, was also known for his antics off the court, which included dating Madonna, dressing up like a drag queen and even wearing a wedding dress out to promote a book. But even though Rodman is older, and possibly more mature now, would anyone have ever thought that he could be a diplomat?

In Kim Jong Un’s reign of North Korea so far, he has not exactly been kind to the United States. This past February, the country tested a nuclear bomb, much to the U.S. Presidential administration’s dismay. That action has lead to heightened tensions between the two countries. However, Rodman has been the lone bright spot in the relationship between the two countries. The former NBA star visited Kim Jong Un, mainly to talk some things out. But of all the people in the world, why was Dennis Rodman going to talk with the new dictator? It turns out that just like all of us avid sports fans, Jong Un was a huge basketball fan growing up, especially of Rodman’s Bulls teams. On this visit, Rodman befriended Jong Un, calling him a “friend for life” and urging President Barack Obama to give the dictator a call.

Earlier this month, Rodman returned to North Korea to see Jong Un again and to actually take care of some business. While in North Korea, Rodman announced two basketball-related ventures. First, Rodman hopes to host two exhibition basketball games early next year in North Korea, with the likes of himself, Scottie Pippen and Karl Malone taking on some of the best talent North Korea has to offer. In addition, Kim Jong Un asked Rodman to train North Korea’s basketball team in preparation for the 2016 Olympic Games. This would be a difficult task, as the North Korean team did not take part in this year’s FIBA Asia Championships, and is not even ranked in the FIBA system.

Whether or not the exhibition games or the North Korean team pan out, Dennis Rodman’s connection to Kim Jon Un has been a sign of hope for United States-North Korea relations. Rodman has helped put the United States in a somewhat better stance in Jong Un’s view. Who knows what the phenomenon of basketball diplomacy will bring about next?

Contact Dylan Pulver at [email protected]