Rodman sings Happy Birthday to Kim at birthday basketball event

North Korea beats former NBA all star team at event
January 8th, 2014
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Dennis Rodman sung “Happy Birthday” to Kim Jong Un at an exhibition match in Pyongyang held to mark Kim Jong Un’s 31st birthday.

Rodman dedicated the game, which was between a team of former NBA all-stars and a senior North Korean national team, to Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, his wife Ri Sol Ju, and accompanying officials.

“Dennis gave an improvised speech where he thanked the American players for coming and described them as “very brave” to join him on this engagement mission,” Simon Cockerell, a tour guide with the Beijing-based Koryo Tours, told NK News by Skype from his hotel in Pyongyang.

“After thanking everyone, he led everyone on a singalong of Happy Birthday. I don’t think everyone quite knew what to do. Many did join in, but a lot of people just looked bemused,” Cockerell added.

The North Korean team of senior national basketball players beat the team of visiting former NBA basketball players at the event.

The game was split into two halves, with the North Korean team facing their U.S. opponents for the first two quarters and the players merging teams for a mixed game in the second half.

Besides Kim Jong Un and his entourage, a capacity audience of about 14,000 in the stadium was joined by Pyongyang’s diplomatic corps and group of mainly American tourists, Cockerell said.

The ex-NBA delegation was announced on Saturday and includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. They are joined by fellow basketball players Doug Christie, Charles D. Smith, and Craig Hodges.

Michael Spavor, a consultant involved in organizing the trip, took a photograph of the venue where the match took place shortly prior to entry.

As is normal protocol in North Korea when a leader is publicly present, attendees were forbidden from bringing cameras into the game.

Main picture: Michael Spavor

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About the Author

Chad O'Carroll

Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.