January 8

Rodman sings happy birthday to North Korean leader

The capacity crowd of about 14,000 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium clapped loudly.

By Eric Talmadge
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Dennis Rodman sings “Happy Birthday” to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, before an exhibition basketball game at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday.

The Associated Press

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Along with Rodman, the former NBA players included ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker. Also on the roster were Craig Hodges, Doug Christie, Charles D. Smith and four streetballers.

Members of the team, who average in their late 40s, said they came because they believed the game would be a good opportunity to create a human connection with the people of the isolated country. But some said they have been concerned by the negative reaction they have seen from the media and critics back home.

“This was a test of faith. We stepped out into the unknown,” said former New York Knicks player Smith, who has played similar games in other countries and has acted as the team’s spokesman to balance Rodman’s famously outspoken character.

Smith said he was gratified to see the North Korean crowd enjoy the game, but he added that he had mixed emotions about the two-hour event.

“Emotionally, I don’t know what to feel,” he told The Associated Press afterward. “I’m indifferent. I’m not totally overjoyed.”

Smith said he and the other players did not join Rodman in singing the birthday song.

“We always tell Dennis that he can’t sing. He is tone deaf,” Smith said. “He did it alone.”

Associated Press writer Doug Esser in Seattle, Washington, contributed to this report.

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