How former basketball star Dennis Rodman became an unlikely presence at the Trump-Kim summit

Dennis Rodman discussing the historic meeting between President Trump and Kim Jon Un.

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Dennis Rodman discussing the historic meeting between President Trump and Kim Jon Un.
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Photo courtesy of CNN

History was made in Singapore when U.S. President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first time the leaders of the two countries had ever met before.

Also in Singapore during the time of this historic summit was NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, courtesy of the cryptocurrency Potcoin.

“I’m just happy to be a part it because I think that I agree with it,” Rodman said to reporters when he arrived to the airport in Singapore. “I think that I’ve brought a lot of awareness to things around the world.”

Rodman has a prior connection to Trump, stemming from an appearance on celebrity apprentice. He also has a long relationship with Kim, having previous called the North Korean leader “a friend for life.”

Here’s look at Rodman’s progression from basketball star to unlikely figure of U.S. diplomacy:


Rodman began his basketball career with the Detroit Pistons.

Rodman was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the 1986 draft. He became a crucial piece of the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons teams, who won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. He remained with the Pistons through 1993.

Source: Basketball-reference


Rodman was later traded to the Chicago Bulls in 1995.

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Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Rodman joined future Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, then coming back from his first retirement to play baseball, and Scottie Pippen in Chicago. In his first season Rodman helped the Bulls to a then NBA-record 72-10 regular season record as well as another title, as well as two more NBA titles in 1997 and 1998 to pull off back-to-back-to-back NBA championships.


Rodman has remained in the media spotlight since retirement, including in two stints on Celebrity Apprentice.

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Castmembers Dennis Rodman, Trace Adkins, Stephen Baldwin, Brande Roderick, Lil Jon, Dee Snider, Lisa Rinna, Donald Trump, Gary Busey, Marilu Henner, Penn Jillette, Claudia Jordan, and Brett Michaels attend the ‘Celebrity Apprentice All Stars’ Season 13 Bus Tour at on October 12, 2012 in New York City.
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Getty Images/Stephen Lovekin

Rodman appeared on the Trump-hosted reality series as a cast member in 2009 and again in 2013. He was fired from the show in 2013 for misspelling Trump’s wife Melania’s first name.


He traveled to North Korea for the first time in February 2013 with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by VICE television.

Since then, Rodman has traveled to the country four times, according to his publicist.


During Rodman’s first trip, he and Kim sat side by side at an exhibition game in Pyongyang.

Kim is known to be a basketball enthusiast, and he and Rodman chatted as they watched players from North Korea and the United States play on mixed teams. Rodman later addressed Kim before a crowd of thousands, telling him, “You have a friend for life,” a VICE spokesman said then.


After the game, the VICE crew and the players were rushed across Pyongyang unexpectedly for a dinner with Kim and other members of North Korea’s government.

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VICE News

Rodman’s 2013 trip came just two weeks after North Korea conducted the first of three underground nuclear tests it has done under the rule of Kim, who is openly pursuing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the US mainland.


Rodman also visited North Korea in January 2014, just weeks after Kim made a stunningly violent move to strengthen his grip on power

Kim had executed his uncle and onetime No. 2 Jang Song Thaek for alleged treason.


Rodman still went through with a plan to take a group of retired NBA players to North Korea for an exhibition game, which soon became overshadowed by politics.

Rodman had said the game would a “birthday present” for his “best friend” Kim. But he suffered an angry meltdown on CNN before the game when asked whether during the trip he would raise the issue of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary who was detained in North Korea at the time on charges of “anti-state crimes.”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what the hell you think,” Rodman yelled in response to the CNN question. “One day this door is going to open because of these 10 guys here.”


At the start of the exhibition game, Rodman sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim, who was seated in the arena.

Rodman bowed deeply as the North Korean players clapped.

Former NBA player Charles Smith said at the time that he felt remorse for coming to Pyongyang with Rodman because the event was dwarfed by politics and tainted by Rodman’s own comments.

“Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us,” Smith told The Associated Press before the exhibition game. “Dennis is a great guy, but how he articulates what goes on – he gets emotional and he says things that he’ll apologize for later.”


Rodman later apologized for the comments he made on Kenneth Bae.

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Kenneth Bae (L) reunites with his family at U.S. Air Force Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Fort Lewis, Washington Nov. 8, 2014.
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Reuters/David Ryder

“I embarrassed a lot of people,” Rodman said in his apology. “I’m very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I’m truly sorry.”

Bae was released in November 2014. He had originally been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on allegations of committing “hostile acts.”


After returning to the US following the 2014 visit, Rodman spent three weeks at a New Jersey-based alcohol rehabilitation center.

Rodman said the rehab stint was not about giving up drinking, but to “decompress from all things” he was going through.

“I was trying to get this game going and get everything going in North Korea,” Rodman told the AP then. “It was a lot.”


Rodman’s agent Darren Prince said Rodman had been drinking and was under pressure as he organized the Pyongyang exhibition game.

“What was potentially a historic and monumental event turned into a nightmare for everyone concerned,” Prince said at the time. “Dennis Rodman came back from North Korea in pretty rough shape emotionally. The pressure that was put on him to be a combination ‘super human’ political figure and ‘fixer’ got the better of him.”


In an ESPN interview after his 2014 trip, Rodman expressed some remorse for his visits and friendly relationship with Kim.

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ESPN

“If you don’t want me to go back there ever again, I won’t go back.” Rodman told ESPN’s Mark Schwarz. “If I put anyone in harm’s way, I apologize, you know.

“I wish they understood the whole purpose of why I went to North Korea … I wish they did,” he continued.

But Rodman also appeared confused at the backlash he had received.

“What makes me so damn bad? What makes me this bad, awful person?” he said. “At least someone tried … So that’s how I look at it. You know, I don’t want to be a hero, I don’t want to be this, I don’t want to be that. I just wanted to be, just do happy things and do great things in life. That’s all I wanted to do. That’s it.”


And Rodman again visited North Korea in the summer of 2017.

Rodman was not visiting in an official capacity, according to a U.S. official.

“I’m just trying to open the door,” Rodman said at the time.

“I’m pretty sure [Trump is] pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”

Trump has, in the past, expressed support for Rodman’s visits to North Korea and said they were “smart.”

Rodman also gave Kim a copy of Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.”


In 2018, he arrived in Singapore on the occasion of the summit between Trump and Kim.

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Photo courtesy of CNN

In an emotional interview on CNN during his trip to Singapore, Rodman said, “I showed my loyalty … to this country, and I said to everybody, I said, ‘the door will open,'” and claimed he had received death threats for his friendship with Kim.