Retired NBA forward Dennis Rodman has made headlines for his exceptional rebounding and defensive skills on the court, as well as his volatile antics off of it. His most recent brush with controversy came courtesy of his trip to North Korea, where he met with supreme leader Kim Jong-un.
The 52-year-old Rodman made two separate appearances in North Korea and facilitated an exhibition basketball game on the second trip. He said he wouldn't return to the nation if people didn't want him to.
ESPN reported what Rodman had to say on the matter in an interview with Mark Schwarz:
I wish they understood the whole purpose of why I went to North Korea. I wish they did...At least someone tried. So that's how I look at it. You know, I don't want to be a hero, I don't want to be this, I don't want to be that. I just wanted to be, just do happy things and do great things in life. That's all I wanted to do.
It appears Rodman intended to serve as an ambassador, using basketball as a diplomatic bridge between the United States and North Korea. While it may have been an engaging and even effective strategy overseas, it has been a source of serious debate.
Rodman grew impatient during a CNN interview after returning when his motives were questioned, and later admitted to being intoxicated during the Q&A session:
In a strange development, Fox is reportedly producing a movie on the relationship between Rodman and North Korea's supreme leader, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit.
Rodman stated that he likes Kim Jong-un, and a video surfaced where he sings "Happy Birthday" to the 31-year-old, per Sky News. That alone is enough to incite criticism from casual basketball fans.
Rodman added, per ESPN, "I don't want people to look at me as the devil or evil person. If I put anyone in harm's way, I apologize, you know."
Regardless of his true intentions, his trips to North Korea will likely continue to be viewed in a negative light in the court of U.S. public opinion.