Dennis Rodman doesn't look like anyone's idea of a diplomat. But the heavily tattooed, flamboyant, unpredictable former NBA champion may find himself in a sort of diplomatic role: He has been selected to star in a new Vice/HBO television series. And the series will take place in the world's most reclusive nation: the increasingly hostile, U.S-hating, nuclear-armed North Korea.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Dennis Rodman -- nose ring and multicolored hair included -- arrived in Pyongyang to begin filming the new show set in North Korea (and the only one ever on American TV filmed in the nation). Rodman was joined by 13 members of the Harlem Globetrotters entertainment-basketball team, a Vice correspondent and a camera crew.
In his heyday, Rodman played for the Chicago Bulls, alongside basketball legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, with whom he won three NBA championships. However, it is likely that the biggest legacy that he left with the league was the colorful antics he was known for on and off the court. Basketball players and fans often recall Rodman as a hothead on the court, disrupting games and conflicting with opponents. In addition to that, Rodman was known for his wildly colored hairstyles, tattoos, piercings and even donning a wedding dress as a publicity stunt to promote his autobiography, “Bad As I Wanna Be.”
When shown a picture of a grimacing Rodman, with lip piercings and tattoos covering his chest, one North Korean exclaimed, “He looks like a monster!”
In fact, as well as not looking much like your average diplomat, Rodman doesn't look like anything the typical North Korean will ever have seen in their life. North Korea does not allow for much expression through clothing choices or hairstyles; for the most part, people are restricted to muted colors -- khaki, black and gray -- and men are forbidden from even growing facial hair.
Now 51, Rodman arrived in the North Korean capital, visibly toned down compared to his wedding-dress days, and hopes to serve as a kind of unofficial ambassador of "sports diplomacy" between the U.S. and the pariah nation. Tensions between the two nations are high, as repeated threats of more nuclear testing are made by North Korea in retaliation for United Nations Security Council sanctions that were spearheaded by the U.S.
According to the AP report, Rodman and Vice hope to do for basketball and politics what President Richard Nixon did with ping-pong and the then closed-off nation of China in the early 1970s.
“Rodman and Vice’s producers said the Americans hope to engage in a little ‘basketball diplomacy’ by running a basketball camp for children and playing with North Korea’s top basketball stars.”
Shane Smith, who will host the upcoming Vice series, hopes that the project, which for the moment sounds as bizarre as Rodman’s antics in the 1990s, will be a way for North Koreans and Americans to share their love for the sport.
“Finding common ground on the basketball court is a beautiful thing,” Smith said in the AP report. "These channels of cultural communication might appear untraditional, and perhaps they are, but we think it's important just to keep the lines open. And if Washington isn't going to send their generals, then we'll send our Globetrotters."
But does North Korea even care about basketball?
It is unclear if North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un will be attending any of the scrimmages or show tapings, but, according to a report by the Telegraph, he is a big basketball fan. He has taken pictures with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers (both teams Rodman has played for) while he was a student in Switzerland.