Dennis Rodman has sung “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before leading a squad of former NBA stars onto the court at a Pyongyang stadium for a game Rodman said is part of his “basketball diplomacy” with the North that has been heavily criticized in the United States.
Rodman dedicated the game Wednesday to his “best friend” Kim, who along with his wife and other senior officials and their wives watched from a special seating area.
The capacity crowd of about 14,000 clapped loudly as Rodman sang a verse from the birthday song.
Along with Rodman, the former NBA players included ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker. Also on the roster were Craig Hodges, Doug Christie, Charles D. Smith and four streetballers.
The game is a new milestone in Rodman's unusual relationship with Kim, who rarely meets with foreigners and remains a mystery to much of the outside world. Kim, who inherited power after the death of his father in late 2011, is believed to be in his early thirties, but his age has not been officially confirmed. Until recently, his birthday was also not widely known — though it was quietly observed elsewhere around the capital Wednesday.