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Dennis Rodman got North Korea gig after Michael Jordan declined

Dennis Rodman, left, shown with the Chicago Bulls in 1996, made his infamous trip to North Korea this year after former teammate Michael Jordan turned it down.
(Jeffrey Phelps / Associated Press)

Michael Jordan was the first choice for the creators of the TV show that ultimately wound up sending Dennis Rodman on his now-infamous trip to North Korea earlier this year.

“Jordan wasn’t interested,” Vice Media Group founder and chief executive Shane Smith said at a preview of the season finale of the HBO newsmagazine “Vice.”

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That episode follows Rodman and three members of the Harlem Globetrotters as they try to employ what has been dubbed “basketball diplomacy” on a trip to North Korea during a time of high tension between it and the U.S.

North Korea’s ruling family has had a longtime love for American basketball and a particular obsession with Jordan, according to the New York Times.

But Rodman’s agent, Darren Prince, told the New York Times in an email that Vice and HBO had asked the flamboyant former Chicago Bulls teammate of Jordan’s to take part because current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had once been photographed wearing a Rodman jersey.

“It showed them what a big fan he was,” Prince said.

Rodman became the first American to officially meet Kim, who took over as leader in 2011. The two men hit it off, with Rodman declaring the young dictator a friend for life and planning to visit Kim again on vacation this summer.

Smith now says that Rodman’s participation worked out for the program. “It fit right into our wheelhouse, because it’s absurd,” he said.

The season finale is scheduled to air June 14.

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