Former NBA player Dennis Rodman sang “Happy Birthday” Wednesday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a man he calls his "best friend" and a "good guy", before leading a group of former NBA basketball players onto the court.The Americans played against the North Korean team for the first half of the game, and then mixed up the teams for the second half.
The ex-Chicago Bulls player is leading a team including retired NBA All-Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker for a celebratory exhibition game against North Korea in honor of Kim's 31st birthday.
According to CNN report, Rodman and Kim struck up an unlikely friendship in February, when he first traveled to North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters for an exhibition game.
He remains the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power from his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011.
Rodman has described Kim as a "very good guy" and his friend.
"I love my friend," Rodman said Tuesday in a reference to Kim. "This is my friend."
Rodman also filmed a bizarre pistachio commercial with Kim Jong Un lookalike earlier this year.
"The secret to world peace is... pistachios," says Dennis Rodman, in a new "Get Crackin'" ad for Wonderful Pistachios. He is then murdered by explosion by a Kim Jong Un lookalike. Next, the narrator declares, "Dennis Rodman does it because he's nuts."
Rodman has described his four trips to North Korea as a "basketball diplomacy" mission and defended the latest trip in his interview with Cuomo, saying it was a "great idea for the world."
Rodman, in the interview that aired on Jan. 7, had appeared to imply that Kenneth Bae was responsible for his fate and he might have done something to deserve the arrest.
On Wednesday, Bae's family accused Rodman of "playing games" with Bae's life. Relatives and U.S. officials have insisted Bae committed no crime.
"There is no diplomacy, only games, and at my brother's expense," Bae's sister, Terri Chung, said Wednesday in a prepared statement.
Bae, described by family members as a devout Christian who ran a legal tour operation in North Korea, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2012 on charges that he planned an operation to topple North Korea's government through religious activities.
A day after Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim, the former NBA player issued the apology through publicist Jules Feiler in an email message to The Associated Press."I want to apologize," Rodman said. "I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart. I had been drinking. It's not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It's not an excuse, it's just the truth.
"I want to first apologize to Kenneth Bae's family. I want to apologize to my teammates and my management team. I also want to apologize to Chris Cuomo. I embarrassed a lot of people. I'm very sorry. At this point I should know better than to make political statements. I'm truly sorry."