Dennis Rodman's weird friendship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is probably one of the strangest stories that sports, geopolitics and history in general has seen in a long time. The former NBA All-Star has made several trips to the reclusive nation over the past couple years and calls Kim Jong Un a "friend for life" despite loud protests from government and human rights officials.
Now, to celebrate his main tyrant's birthday, Rodman is bringing a few buddies along with him for a very special game of basketball. Specifically, Rodman and a team for former NBA players will be playing the North Korean Senior National Team tomorrow night in Pyongyang. So who is a part of Rodman's dream team? The roster reportedly includes Kenny Anderson, Craig Hodges, Doug Christie, Charles D. Smith, Vin Baker and... Cliff Robinson.
Yes, THAT Cliff Robinson.
UConn has produced a lot of fascinating alumni over the years, but I think it's safe to say that Robinson's turn as former NBA All-Star turned North Korean ambassador is going to be a first for the school. It's not clear at this point how Robinson came to be involved in this game, or how much he's being paid to go, all anybody is saying is that this is simply a basketball trip, and nobody is going to make any political demands of the North Korean government.
For those who don't remember, Cliff Robinson was UConn's star player when Jim Calhoun first arrived at UConn in the mid 80s, and he was instrumental in program's rise from Big East afterthought to NIT Champion, and then eventually to national prominence.
After leaving UConn, the 6-foot-10 big man was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers in the second round of the 1989 NBA Draft and went on to play 18 seasons in the league. Though his teams reached the playoffs in all but one season during his career, Robinson never won an NBA Championship, but he was named an NBA All-Star in 1994, NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 1993 and his 1,380 games played are the seventh most in NBA history.
Of course, Robinson is now 47 years old, and the other players on Rodman's dream team are more or less in that same range too. I have no idea what the level of basketball talent is in North Korea – I imagine not very good – but if the guys are young and at least somewhat athletic, then Kim Jong Un might actually get the best birthday present of all, an actual win over a team of NBA players that he doesn't have to make up.
And if Rodman's team wins, does the North Korean team meet the firing squad for losing to a bunch of washed up old guys? And either way, there are still all of the human rights issues that Rodman has basically brushed off, and also the fact that his best buddy Kim Jong Un reportedly just purged his own uncle and may have fed him to his dogs.
This whole thing is so weird. Feel free to weigh in down in the comments.