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Dennis Rodman sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before leading a squad of former NBA stars in a friendly game Wednesday as part of his “basketball diplomacy” that has been criticized in the United States as naive and laughable.Rodman dedicated the game 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 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium clapped loudly as Rodman sang a verse from the birthday song. (Photo: Kim Kwang Hyon/The Associated Press)

Dennis Rodman sang “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un before leading a squad of former NBA stars in a friendly game Wednesday as part of his “basketball diplomacy” that has been criticized in the United States as naive and laughable.

Rodman dedicated the game 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 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium clapped loudly as Rodman sang a verse from the birthday song. (Photo: Kim Kwang Hyon/The Associated Press)

A bottle of vodka with handmade illustrations of Rodman with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Rodman’s name in Korean sits on the roof of a car outside a Pyongyang hotel on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Rodman came to the North Korean capital with a team of USA basketball stars for an exhibition game on Jan. 8, the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.Dennis Rodman is running into some conflict on his latest trip to North Korea.The former NBA star went on a strange, angry rant in an interview when CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Rodman about Kenneth Bae. Rodman has come under fire for not pushing for the release of the American imprisoned in North Korea on charges of committing “anti-state” crimes.Rodman became increasingly agitated and eventually started screaming at Cuomo. (Photo: David Guttenfelder/The Associated Press)

A bottle of vodka with handmade illustrations of Rodman with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Rodman’s name in Korean sits on the roof of a car outside a Pyongyang hotel on Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Rodman came to the North Korean capital with a team of USA basketball stars for an exhibition game on Jan. 8, the birthday of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Dennis Rodman is running into some conflict on his latest trip to North Korea.

The former NBA star went on a strange, angry rant in an interview when CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Rodman about Kenneth Bae. Rodman has come under fire for not pushing for the release of the American imprisoned in North Korea on charges of committing “anti-state” crimes.

Rodman became increasingly agitated and eventually started screaming at Cuomo. (Photo: David Guttenfelder/The Associated Press)

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman held tryouts Friday for a North Korean team to face a dozen NBA veterans in an exhibition game on leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday next month — though he hasn’t convinced all the players on the American team that it’s safe to come to Pyongyang.

The flamboyant Hall of Famer said plans for the Jan. 8 game are moving ahead but some of the 12 Americans he wants are afraid to come.

Some foreign analysts say the dramatic purge and execution of Kim’s once-powerful uncle less than a week ago has cast doubt on Kim’s future. But officials here say there is no instability and Kim remains firmly in control.

“You know, they’re still afraid to come here, but I’m just telling them, you know, don’t be afraid man, it’s all love, it’s all love here,” Rodman told The Associated Press after the tryouts at the Pyongyang Indoor Gymnasium. “I understand what’s going on with the political stuff, and I say, I don’t go into that venture, I’m just doing one thing for these kids here, and for this country, and for my country, and for the world pretty much.” (Photos: David Guttenfelder/The Associated Press)

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman checks in at a check in counter at the departure hall of Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on his way to North Korea; Rodman, third right, arrives at Pyongyang airport, North Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013.

Rodman said he plans to hang out with authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un, have a good time and maybe bridge some cultural gaps — but not be a diplomat.

Rodman was greeted at Pyongyang’s airport by Son Kwang Ho, vice-chairman of North Korea’s Olympic Committee, just days after Pyongyang rejected a visit by a U.S. envoy who had hoped to bring home Kenneth Bae, an American missionary jailed there. The North abruptly called off the official visit because it said the U.S. had ruined the atmosphere for talks by holding a drill over South Korea with nuclear-capable B-52 bombers.

Rodman said the purpose of his visit was to display his friendship for Kim and North Korea and to “show people around the world that we as Americans can actually get along with North Korea.” (Photos: Andy Wong/The Associated Press, Jon Chol Jin/The Associated Press)

The fun just doesn’t stop: Here is Dennis Rodman dressed in a brightly flowered jacket standing in front of the Vatican as the world waits for cardinals to elect a new Pope. Or as he probably calls it: “Wednesday.” (Photo: Andrew Medichini/The Associated Press)

The fun just doesn’t stop: Here is Dennis Rodman dressed in a brightly flowered jacket standing in front of the Vatican as the world waits for cardinals to elect a new Pope. Or as he probably calls it: “Wednesday.” (Photo: Andrew Medichini/The Associated Press)

The first American to meet North Korea’s new leader says Kim Jong Un doesn’t want war with the United States. He just wants President Barack Obama to call him.Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman says Obama and Kim share a love of basketball, so “let’s start there.”Rodman is just back from a visit to North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and spent two days with Kim.The State Department on Friday distanced itself from Rodman’s visit. (Photo: Lorenzo Bevilacqua/ABC Television/The Associated Press)

The first American to meet North Korea’s new leader says Kim Jong Un doesn’t want war with the United States. He just wants President Barack Obama to call him.

Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman says Obama and Kim share a love of basketball, so “let’s start there.”

Rodman is just back from a visit to North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team and spent two days with Kim.

The State Department on Friday distanced itself from Rodman’s visit. (Photo: Lorenzo Bevilacqua/ABC Television/The Associated Press)

Dennis Rodman is apparently living it up in North Korea filming a new HBO series. Here he is with Kim Jong Un, enjoying the Harlem Globetrotters playing an exhibition basketball game.
The unlikely encounter makes Rodman the most high-profile American to meet Kim since the young North Korean leader took power in December 2011, and takes place against a backdrop of tension between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test just two weeks ago, making clear the provocative act was a warning to the United States to drop what it considers a “hostile” policy toward the North.
(Vice Media/Jason Mojica/AP)

Dennis Rodman is apparently living it up in North Korea filming a new HBO series. Here he is with Kim Jong Un, enjoying the Harlem Globetrotters playing an exhibition basketball game.

The unlikely encounter makes Rodman the most high-profile American to meet Kim since the young North Korean leader took power in December 2011, and takes place against a backdrop of tension between Washington and Pyongyang. North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test just two weeks ago, making clear the provocative act was a warning to the United States to drop what it considers a “hostile” policy toward the North.

(Vice Media/Jason Mojica/AP)

Dennis Rodman is in North Korea. Dennis. Rodman. Is. In. North. Korea.

Why? Take it away AP:

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman brought his basketball skills Tuesday and flamboyant style — tattoos, nose studs and all — to a country with possibly the world’s strictest dress code: North Korea.

Landing in Pyongyang with VICE television, the American athlete and showman known as “The Worm” became an unlikely ambassador for sports diplomacy at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

Rodman and VICE said the Americans hope to engage in a little “basketball diplomacy” by running a basketball camp for children and playing with North Korea’s top basketball stars — and, they hope, drawing leader Kim Jong Un to a game. Kim is said to be a huge basketball fan.

“Is sending the Harlem Globetrotters and Dennis Rodman to the DPRK strange? In a word, yes,” said Shane Smith, the VICE founder who is host of the upcoming series, referring to North Korea by the initials of its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “But finding common ground on the basketball court is a beautiful thing. (Photo: Kim Kwang Hyon/The Associated Press)

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