Dennis Rodman is the last person you’d expect to be in the middle of an international incident, but there he is, singing Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He’s the only westerner to have any contact with Un, who has been increasingly erratic in recent months, executing his own uncle and threatening the United States with nuclear weapons.
Rodman’s visit to Pyongyang would be comical if the situation between North Korea and the rest of the world were not so serious. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently sent additional troops to the Korean peninsula as a show of force. Even China, which traditionally has the ear of North Korea’s leader, has been unable to reason with Un.
Come to think of it, it shouldn’t be that surprising that Rodman is in the middle of all this. His life and career have been marked by similar absurdities. Granted, none of them involved nuclear weapons, but he’s still had a strange and interesting life.
Here is Dennis Rodman’s timeline of the absurd.
1986 - Rodman is drafted out of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, a school that doesn’t even play at the NCAA Division 1 level. But he was so good that the Detroit Pistons took a chance on him. He quickly became known for his defensive style, rebounding ability and intensity. He became a key part of the Piston’s “Bad Boys” teams, known as much for the physical play as their back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. His nickname? The Worm.
1993 - Rodman was traded to the San Antonio Spurs and things start to get weird. He began to shave his head before games, dying it a series of different colors. In 1994, he had a high profile but short-lived affair with Madonna. Then, in 1995, after refusing to play and being suspended for 19 games, he separated his shoulder in a motorcycle accident, limiting him to 49 games for the entire season.
1996 - Rodman is traded to the Chicago Bulls, a team that, led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, won three straight championships. Rodman remained a spectacular rebounder and a defensive hound, but he still courted controversy, most notably when he kicked a cameraman in the crotch after tripping over him during a game in 1997.
In 1996, Rodman wrote an autobiography, As Bad As I Want to Be, where he proclaimed his bisexuality. He showed up at a New York book signing in a wedding dress, announcing he was marrying himself. He was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 1999 and retired shortly after.
1997 - He starred along Jean Claude Van Damme in Double Team, a movie that was so fantastically bad it earned a sequel, Simon Sez, in 1999. During this time, he also dabbled in professional wrestling, fighting alongside Hulk Hogan. In 1997, it’s finally revealed in Men in Black that Rodman is an alien.
2000s - After retiring, Rodman was involved in a number of different ventures. He was named commissioner of the Lingerie Football League in 2005. He entered a wife-marrying contest in Finland that same year. He also published a second autobiography, I Should Be Dead By Now, and showed up in a coffin to promote it.
2011 - Rodman is elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, cementing his place as one of the best defenders and rebounders in NBA history.
February 26, 2013 - Rodman makes his first trip to North Korea. He calls Un, who is a big Rodman fan, a “friend for life.”
September 3, 2013 - Rodman makes a second trip to North Korea.
January 6, 2014 - During an appearance on CNN, Rodman explodes at host Chris Cuomo when Cuomo questions him about whether he should make a high-profile trip to a country with a laundry list of human rights abuses. Rodman, ignorant of the charge, didn’t know about the imprisonment of Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for committing "hostile acts.” North Korea has never said what those acts are.
January 8, 2014 - Rodman participates in an exhibition game in North Korea with former NBA players. He serenades Un with Happy Birthday.
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