UK & World News

  • 5 January 2014, 14:18

Rodman Names Ex-NBA Stars To Face North Korea

Basketball star Dennis Rodman has named a team of former NBA players to take part in an exhibition game against North Korea.

Rodman first visited the communist state a year ago after accepting an invitation from North Korean leader and basketball enthusiast Kim Jong-Un, whom he later said he considered a "friend for life".

He visited again just before Christmas to train their national team.

However, Rodman has been slated for refusing to discuss North Korea's human-rights record with Mr Kim. The country is considered to have one of the worst reputations for human-rights abuses in the world, according to activists.

And said the trip next week would not be affected by Mr Kim ordering the execution of his uncle last month, which has drawn criticism from human-rights organisations around the world.

Rodman has described the game against the isolated state as "basketball diplomacy".

"My previous travels have allowed me to feel the enthusiasm and warmth of fans," he said.

"The positive memories and smiles on the faces of the children and families are a testament to the great efforts we have put into fulfilling our mission wherever we go voiding any politics.

"We are all looking forward to arriving in Pyongyang, meeting the citizens, visiting various charities and using the opportunity to develop new relationships that result in our annual return."

Rodman will lead a team that includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D Smith will also be on the team.

Smith, who played for the New York Knicks, said he was looking forward to the game, following revelations some members of the team were scared about travelling to the secretive state.

"Dennis and I are total opposites but we work very well together," said Smith. "Dennis is one of the few people I know that doesn't just talk but actually lives a culturally diverse life.

"We have travelled everywhere together so I was not surprised with his first visit to North Korea. Cultural exchange is about sharing. Sharing ideas and thoughts on education, culture and life."

The team will play against a top North Korean Senior National squad on Wednesday to mark Mr Kim's 31st birthday.

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