Just in case you were in any doubt that Dennis Rodman “loves” his BFF Kim Jong Un, the retired NBA star went one step further than the Big Bang in Pyongyang: he serenaded the North Korean dictator with a special birthday tune.
Rodman delivered the gift of song alongside Jong-Un’s other big treat – watching the North Korean national side trounse the retired team of NBA players during a ‘friendly’ charity match, with his wife and other senior members of the regime.
“This is for his birthday, this is his gift,” Rodman said ahead of the match. "This is his gift, from me, from me, from the world.
“I love the guy, the guy is my friend, forever and ever and ever.”
The capacity crowd of about 14,000 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium clapped loudly as Rodman sang, before they watched the squad of former NBA players – including ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker among them – play comically badly against the newly-formed national side. Missing re-bounds and checks all over the court, they proved unworthy opponents and North Korea, predictably, romped home to victory.
His decision to take part in the event has attracted strong criticism due to North Korea’s appalling human rights records.
At present, as many as 200,000 political prisoners who have opposed the regime are locked up in labour camps across the country. Earlier this year, 80 citizens were executed for watching foreign films, while in December, Jong-Un confirmed that he had his own Uncle executed in a political purge.
But Rodman continued to defend his position with bizarre declarations of friendship with the leader, including telling reporters at Beijing airport on Monday that he “loved” him. He also stressed that he and the team were there to provide sporting exchange and to train the North Korean side, adding that they were not politicians.
"We are ready, dude, come on, all you've got to do is one thing, baby," he told the cameras present as he warmed up for the match. "Just give us a ball, man. Guess what, you know, it ain't inventing the wheel. Guess what, we know what we need to do
"Just go out there and have a good time and let the people of North Korea know.
"Matter of fact, I keep saying this over and over, this is for the world, for the world."
His court appearance follows a bizarre outburst during an interview with CNN yesterday.
"One day, one day this door is going to open because of these 10 guys here," Rodman told the broadcaster Chris Cuomo while holding a cigar.
However, when asked if he would use his influence on his "friend for life" to help Kenneth Bae, an American citizen serving a prison sentence in a North Korean labour camp, the basketball player appeared to lose his temper.
"The one thing about politics...Kenneth Bae did one thing ... If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did in this country? Why he is held captive here in this country, why? ... I would love to speak on this.
"You know, you've got 10 guys here, 10 guys here, they've left their families, they've left their damn families, to help this country, as in a sports venture. That's 10 guys, all these guys here, do anyone understand that?"
"I don't a sh**t, I don't give a rat's ass what the hell you think. I'm saying to you, look at these guys here, look at them. They dared to do one thing, they came here."
Former NBA player Charles Smith tried to calm him down, insisting that the game is about friendship, not politics. But Rodman continued his rant, becoming increasingly angry at Cuomo.
"Let me do this. Really? Really? I want to tell you one thing. You're the guy behind the mic right now. We're the guys here doing one thing.
"We have to go back to America and take the abuse. Do you have to take the abuse that we're gonna take? Do you sir, are you going to take the abuse?
"One day, one day, this door is going to open because these 10 guys here, all of us, Christie, Vin, Dennis, Charles, ... I mean everybody here, if we could open the door just a little bit for people to come here and do one thing."