Ponder this for a moment. One of the most famous 5-Star Generals in American history was fired over his tactical desires to defeat North Korea back in 1951. General Douglas MacArthur had sought to use low-level tactical nuclear weapons in this horrifically bloody conflict on the Korean Peninsula. He knew that when the Chinese crossed into the conflict, America was most likely not going to win this war conventionally. Truman had to prevent ever opening Pandora’s box again, and MacArthur was not adhering to White House policy. He had gone rogue, and Truman had to bring him home. And thus began 60-plus years of an icy relationship between North Korea and the United States.
It would not be until 2013 that this icy relationship would begin to thaw, and it did so in the most unlikeliest of ways. The young dictator Kim Jong Un had taken over his families ruling of this dark nation at a young age. His almost idolizing of the sport of basketball had been realized when he attended a European school as a child and young man. Kim (because of his father) had grown to love the Chicago Bulls, and most of their team from the 80’s and 90’s were superstars of the sport. Everyone remembers the heroics of Michael Jordon (who became one of the most famous sports figures of all time), Scott Pippen, and yes ‘The Worm‘-Dennis Rodman. For those that are not basketball aficionados, The Worm is a nickname for Rodman. Rodman’s prowess and specialty on the court was rebounding, and his career would end with him being one of the greatest ever to play the game in his specialty. Dennis Rodman has 6-World Championship rings that would be the envy of anyone who ever played the game.
It turns out that Kim Jong Un happened to be a colossal Rodman fan also. This led to him writing to the tattooed and multi-pierced superstar and even sending him an invitation to visit his country. Keep in mind, this was when Kim was ramping up his nuclear program, and the United States was still trying to figure out ways to stop him short of going to a full-scale conflict again. Rodman accepted the Dictators request and even took over a couple of the Harlem Globetrotters with him to put on an exhibition game for the young ruler.
This is the part where we must “stretch our minds a little,” and think what might have happened behind the scenes. We know that the two broke bread and had several meals together. We know the two spent much time sitting together while watching basketball games. We know that Rodman even helped to coach Kim’s team a bit. Now, pretend you’re Kim for a moment. You know virtually nothing about the United States except that one of their Generals wanted to nuke your nation once upon a time. Your country is nearly cut off from most of the world. Therefore, you have never watched an episode of J.R. Ewing and the immense wealth of Texas oilmen or an episode of The Apprentice for that matter. You begin asking questions of your idol.
Hey Dennis, what are Big Mac’s like? What’s your home like? Are all American’s like MacArthur and do they all love war? Does all of America really hate North Korea and want to see us destroyed? I’m pretty sure that at this moment in time, Rodman’s mental wheels began turning and he knew his role had changed somewhat from basketball expert athlete to Ambassador Rodman. Rodman is known for being charismatic, charming, and a “tell it like it is” sort of person anyway. He is also known for pulling stunts for public relations that could very easily be described as outlandish. Of course, it was all in good humor. Make no mistake; this guy is a marketing genius at marketing Dennis Rodman. I have to believe, and in fact, I do think that it was much of this talent that led him to his breaking through to the North Korean regime.
In the end, had Kim not been a basketball fan, and had Kim’s father not been a Bull’s fan, and had Rodman thrown the letter in the trash, we would not be where we are today. Of that, I am firmly convinced.
Dennis Rodman suffered immensely for doing the right thing. His reputation suffered, his family suffered, and he endured death threats for reaching out for world peace and America’s security. Hat’s off to you Dennis, and America is grateful. I know the President is most thankful as it should lead to a Nobel Prize for him. I hope he lets you have a picture taken with the letter. In the end, America also thanks you Dennis for a job well done.