News

Rodman leaves for N. Korea for basketball

Rodman leaves for N. Korea for basketball

BASKETBALL BIRTHDAY: Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman (C) is surrounded by journalists as he arrives at the Beijing Capital International Airport to leave for Pyongyang, in Beijing, Jan. 6. Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee

By Maxim Duncan

BEIJING (Reuters) – Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman left Beijing for North Korea on Monday with a team of retired basketball players to mark the birthday of “nice guy” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

This will be Rodman’s fourth trip to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, where he and his team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars will hold basketball games on Kim’s birthday, which is believed to fall on Wednesday, although it has never been officially confirmed.

On previous visits, Rodman spent time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship, though he did not meet Kim on his third trip.

Rodman said he will not interfere in the country’s politics.

“People always say that North Korea is like a really communist country, that people are not allowed to go there,” Rodman told reporters at an airport in Beijing. “I just know the fact that, you know, to me he’s a nice guy, to me.”

“Whatever he does political-wise, that’s not my job. I’m just an athlete, an individual who wants to go over there and play something for the world. That’s it.”

Rodman’s latest visit follows the rare public purge of Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed in December.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events in North Korea as a “reign of terror”. The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the North, indicated factionalism within the secretive government.

Wearing sunglasses, a sequin-encrusted cap and a pink scarf, Rodman was asked about his response to critics who said he should not play in the reclusive state.

“Are they going to shoot me? Are they going to shoot me? Come on, man,” he said.

(Writing by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Michael Perry and Robert Birsel)

Recent Headlines

in Sports

This week’s top sports shots

little

A look at the biggest stories and best photography in sports this week.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

yankees

A complete look at this weekend's sports schedule.

in National

Making headlines this week

surf

A look at the week's biggest newsmakers and the stories you won't soon forget.

in National

WATCH: The history of Labor Day

21-overlay4

While you take your three day weekend, remember those who struggled to get Friday and Saturday off.

in Sports

Tony Stewart returns to NASCAR racing after fatal accident

Tony Stewart smiles as he speaks with his crew before the start of the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, February 27, 2012.

Tony Stewart will return to racing this weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time since he struck and killed a young racer at a dirt track earlier this month.