Basketball diplomacy |

Basketball diplomacy

What is the common bond between Dennis Rodman and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un? They are both grown-up children.

Kim might otherwise admire someone more like Dikembe Mutombo, former NBA Defensive Player of the Year who is better known for his passion for helping others who are less fortunate.

In 1997, he founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve health, education and the quality of life in his native Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 2001 Mutombo has donated $15 million to build a hospital in his hometown of Kinshasa.

Who is Rodman representing in his January visit to North Korea? Paddy Power, Europe’s leading Internet gambling business. Yes, the same Paddy Power that posted the distasteful wager that President Obama would not last one year in office.

Birds of a feather flock together. Both Rodman and Kim are contact men without contacts. They rely on unawareness for their lowbrow public image, rumor-mongering is the glue that binds them.

Kim recently called his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, a “despicable human scum” then had him executed by firing squad. An ex-girlfriend, singer Hyon Song-wol, charged with breaking a pornography law, got the same treatment.

But now wouldn’t it be a nice piece of Socratic irony if Dennis Rodman, over a cigar and bottle of cognac, could seduce Kim into coming out of his cocoon and joining the world order.

If Rodman could pull off that princely piece of statesmanship he could well be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But I don’t see that happening.

Rodman will continue to humor Kim, pocket some expensive cigars, and come away with a few tabloid headlines. Kim meanwhile, will continue in his role as “mousetrap-man” in being the entirely unpredictable extreme leader of a nuclear state.

January 8 marks Kim’s birthday. He will be 31 but will celebrate his birthday like a 3-year-old, and what better way to celebrate than with a game of rigged basketball. This time it’s not the Globetrotters, but NBA players against North Korea in the first half.

Some NBA players Rodman is attempting to recruit are reluctant to sign up for a game in which the teams are mixed in the second half, and that’s the game plan.

In the second half, North Korean players will join NBA players, divide up, and play each other, not separate but mixed, thus creating a win-win situation for Kim.

Were I to have a private word with Rodman, I would caution him, “Do not make the mistake of accidentally blowing cigar smoke in the face of the supreme leader on his birthday, but if you do make the mistake of accidentally blowing cigar smoke in the face of the supreme leader on his birthday, don’t apologize — find an avenue of escape.”

I wish Rodman luck in softening up a hard-hearted Kim. His flattery served to seduce Madonna, so why not Kim? Strangers things have happened, though I can’t think of one right now…

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at