Michael Jordan passed on North Korea trip before Dennis Rodman got the offer

Rodman made for a more "absurd" "basketball ambassador," however

By Prachi Gupta
Published May 30, 2013 7:41PM (UTC)
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Michael Jordan could have been the first American to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reports the New York Times. Knowing that the ruling Kim family is obsessed with the former NBA star, HBO's Vice Media Group originally proposed that Jordan travel to the communist country for the television special. However, “Jordan wasn’t interested,” Shane Smith, the founder and chief executive of the Vice Media Group told the Times.

Instead, that dubious honor went to Dennis Rodman, leading to his now-infamous "basketball diplomacy" tour, which resulted in him befriending one of the world's most reviled leaders and seemingly inspired Rodman to pursue another mission to befriend the Pope.


It may have worked out for the best, according to Smith. “It fit right into our wheelhouse, because it’s absurd,” Smith said.

The season finale, which follows "basketball ambassadors" Rodman and three members of the Harlem Globetrotters in North Korea, airs June 14.

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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Basketball Dennis Rodman Michael Jordan Nba North Korea