When HBO newsmagazine Vice sent Dennis Rodman to North Korea for a highly-scrutinized, widely-publicized trip that included a meeting with the country's leader, Kim Jong-un, the overwhelming media response seemed to be exactly what the network was looking for.
The trip in itself, during a time when relations between the isolated Asian country and the United States appeared at their most tense, was a bizarre idea. With that in mind, Rodman, whose colorful hairdos, piercings and off-court antics nearly erased memories of his wildly productive Hall of Fame career, seemed to be a natural fit.
But according to Rick Gladstone of The New York Times, Rodman was not the first choice of the program's creators. They first sought out Rodman's old running mate with the Chicago Bulls and current Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, who "wasn't interested," according to Shane Smith, founder and chief executive of the Vice Media Group.
The Kim family has a known adoration for the sport of basketball and, per Gladstone, a particular affinity for Jordan.
Join the club.
Jordan's basketball exploits, on the hardwood at least, reached legendary status even before the five-time MVP and six-time NBA champion called it a career in 2003. His 30.1 points per game is the highest career scoring average the league has ever seen.
But Rodman, a dominant performer in his own right (14.9 career rebounds per game), became a blessing in disguise for the news program.
"It fit right into our wheelhouse, because it's absurd," Smith said.
Rodman's visit was made as part of the show's season finale on North Korea. The program features Rodman and three Harlem Globetrotters meeting with the country's officials, students and children and, at times, putting on impromptu basketball trick performances.
The episode will air on June 14 on HBO.
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