HoopsHype Kim Jong Un rumors

January 8, 2014 Updates

Cliff Robinson -- one of the ex-NBA stars who's in North Korea with Dennis Rodman -- knows his trip has turned into an international "train wreck" and expects serious backlash when he returns to the U.S. ... so says his wife. TMZ Sports spoke with Heather Robinson -- who's appeared on "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" -- and she tells us her husband initially agreed to join Rodman because he thought he could help "bridge cultural differences with basketball." But after Rodman went on CNN and defended the country's dictator/murderer Kim Jong Un -- while wildly screaming at the news anchor -- Heather says her hubby knew he had instantly become a part of a PR nightmare. "The look on Cliff's face when Dennis was talking during the CNN interview, it was pure shock and confusion ... it's the look he used to give when a referee used to make a bad call." TMZ.com

January 7, 2014 Updates

Stern, commissioner for nearly 30 years, said the league has had preliminary discussions in the past with Pyongyang about a cultural exchange but he wouldn't send any players to North Korea without the OK of the White House. Stern said he believed that these former players agreed to the game for a big payday and didn't think about the political ramifications. CNN.com

Former NBA star Charles D. Smith says he feels remorse for coming to Pyongyang with Dennis Rodman for a game on the North Korean leader's birthday because the event has been dwarfed by politics and tainted by Rodman's own comments. Smith and other former NBA players are scheduled to play with Rodman against a team of North Koreans in a game on Wednesday that organizers say leader Kim Jong Un is expected to attend. Many of the players on Tuesday privately expressed second thoughts about going ahead because of an outpouring of criticism in the United States. ABC News

Smith, who played for the New York Knicks, said the North Korea trip has been dwarfed by politics and Rodman's frequent boasts about his close friendship with Kim. "What we are doing is positive, but it is getting dwarfed by the other circumstances around it," Smith told The Associated Press. "Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us, and I think that has to do with politics and government." ABC News

January 6, 2014 Updates
January 5, 2014 Updates

Dennis Rodman has named a team of former NBA players to participate in an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea. Rodman leads a team that includes former NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson, and Vin Baker. Craig Hodges, Doug Christie and Charles D. Smith are on the team, as well. They will play against a top North Korean Senior National team on Wednesday, marking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's birthday. Rodman is the highest profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power after his father died in late 2011. Rodman calls the game his version of "basketball diplomacy." USA Today Sports

December 23, 2013 Updates

Former basketball star Dennis Rodman left North Korea on Monday without answering questions from the media on whether he had met with leader Kim Jong Un. The two struck up a friendship when Rodman first traveled to the secretive state earlier this year. Rodman declined to answer questions from reporters on his arrival at Beijing's airport if the two met on his latest visit. On Sunday night, he told The Associated Press that he had not yet had a meeting with Kim. He arrived in North Korea on Thursday, a week after North Korea announced the execution of Kim's once-powerful uncle, sparking speculation by foreign analysts over the future of the Kim regime. Yahoo! Sports

December 21, 2013 Updates
December 19, 2013 Updates

The growing basketball collaboration between Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, can be traced back to an Irish online betting company and the pope. Mr. Rodman, the former N.B.A. star who arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday to tutor North Korea’s best basketball players at Mr. Kim’s behest, is doing so under the sponsorship of Paddy Power, Europe’s leading Internet gambling business. The four-day trip comes after a deadly purge by Mr. Kim that has raised worries of a dangerous power struggle in the nuclear-armed and often unpredictable country. New York Times

During their pope collaboration, Mr. Scott said, Mr. Rodman and Paddy Power executives devised the idea of setting up an international basketball tournament involving North Korea’s national team. Months later, when Mr. Rodman visited Mr. Kim a second time, the North Korean leader, an avowed basketball enthusiast, embraced the idea. He said they should hold the tournament in Pyongyang on his 31st birthday, Jan. 8. “So it all started when the pope resigned,” Mr. Scott said, speaking from Beijing as he was preparing to accompany Mr. Rodman to Pyongyang. “That had everything to do with it.” New York Times

He remains the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power from his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011. "I've come over to see my friend, and people always give me a little hard time about me saying that,'' said Rodman, who was given the red carpet treatment at the airport by Vice Sports Minister Son Kwang Ho and O Hun Ryong, secretary-general of the North Korean Basketball Association. "I'm very proud to say he's my friend, because he hasn't done anything to put a damper, to say any negative things about my country.'' ESPN.com

December 17, 2013 Updates

Retired basketball star Dennis Rodman will return to North Korea for a third time on Thursday, despite political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim Jong Un's uncle, trip organizers said. "It's certainly safe, even when there is a bit of disruption like there is now -- a bit of trouble or chaos -- there's even more need for cultural or sporting exchanges," said Rory Scott, a spokesman for Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, which has arranged the trip. Toronto Sun

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