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Rodman sings 'Happy Birthday' to his 'best friend' Kim Jong Un

By Eric Talmadge

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:11 p.m. HST, Jan 08, 2014

PYONGYANG, North Korea >> Dennis Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before leading a squad of former NBA stars for a friendly game today as part of his "basketball diplomacy" that has been criticized in the United States.

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.

Rodman said he was honored to be able to play the game in the North Korean capital, and called the event "historic." To keep it friendly, the Americans played against the North Koreans in the first half, but split up and merged teams for the second half. 

The North Korean team scored 47 points to 39 for the Americans before the teams were mixed. Rodman played only in the first half and then sat next to Kim during the second half. 

"A lot of people have expressed different views about me and your leader, your marshal, and I take that as a compliment," Rodman told the crowd. "Yes, he is a great leader, he provides for his people here in this country and thank God the people here love the marshal."

Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim. He has carefully avoided getting involved in overtly political activities, saying that he is not a statesman and instead is seeking only to build cultural connections with the North through basketball that may help improve relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

That has not stopped many in the United States -- including members of Congress, the NBA and human rights groups --  from calling his visits to North Korea ill-advised and naive. 

They have criticized the game because of North Korea's human rights record, its development of nuclear weapons and its threats to use them if a conflict breaks out with Washington or Seoul.

In particular, Rodman has been slammed for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, an American missionary in poor health who is being confined in the North for "anti-state" crimes.

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 today.

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.

Members of the team, who average in their late 40s, said they came because they believed the game would be a good opportunity to create a human connection with the people of the isolated country. But some said they have been concerned by the negative reaction they have seen from the media and critics back home.

"This was a test of faith. We stepped out into the unknown," said former New York Knicks player Charles D. Smith, who has played similar games in other countries and has acted as the team's spokesman to balance Rodman's famously outspoken character. 

Smith said he was gratified to see the North Korean crowd enjoy the game, but he added that he had mixed emotions about the two-hour event.

"Emotionally, I don't know what to feel," he told The Associated Press afterward. "I'm indifferent. I'm not totally overjoyed."

Smith said he and the other players did not join Rodman in singing the birthday song.

"We always tell Dennis that he can't sing. He is tone deaf," Smith said. "He did it alone."

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bumba wrote:
What an idiot.
on January 8,2014 | 05:18AM
bumba wrote:
What an i d i o t
on January 8,2014 | 05:19AM
Kate53 wrote:
You got that right!
on January 8,2014 | 05:28AM
lokela wrote:
Always was.
on January 8,2014 | 05:45AM
lwandcah wrote:
And alway will be. The media needs to stop giving him the time of day. People like him do what they do for one reason and one reason only; to be in the lime light. If you ignore him, eventually he crawls back under the rock he slithered out from beneath and we forget about him until he crawls back out.
on January 8,2014 | 06:39AM
808comp wrote:
Heard his team lost to the North Koreans today.
on January 8,2014 | 06:23AM
false wrote:
He wouldn't even about winning one for N. Korea. Either the whole N. Korea would be punished or his team would.
on January 8,2014 | 08:48AM
Pauoa wrote:
The second coming of Jane "Hanoi Jane" Fonda
on January 8,2014 | 06:27AM
rbzs1 wrote:
the best bday gift that would be the greatest to all,,,,,RODMAN BECOMES A CITIZEN OF KOREA AND LIVES THERE HAPPILY EVER AFTER.........
on January 8,2014 | 06:29AM
Sandybeach wrote:
Scores: American 100 NK 22. Shortly after the game 22 NK players were shot in the back of the head. The price of losing in NK.
on January 8,2014 | 06:56AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Another Jane Fonda!!! How can people even validate anything this idiot says.....why doesn't he just live there.!! Nothing more and nothing less.
on January 8,2014 | 07:05AM
HOSSANA wrote:
Another Jane Fonda!!
on January 8,2014 | 07:05AM
false wrote:
The guy completely lost it. Just wait one day N. Korea will accuse him of spying.
on January 8,2014 | 08:47AM
krusha wrote:
Rodman only cares about himself, and probably has ulterior motives for this stunt... Probably is also getting treated like a God there in North Korea, so his aspirations is probably to eventually take over that country.
on January 8,2014 | 08:52AM
Bdpapa wrote:
He's just trying to get out of North Korea alive!
on January 8,2014 | 09:27AM
cojef wrote:
You mean lucky to make it out alive or dead. Makes no difference to them. Executing his own uncle, give me a break!
on January 8,2014 | 10:18AM
Anonymous wrote:
Remind me of Nancy Pelosi.
on January 8,2014 | 10:37AM
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