Lawrence: Rodman’s All-Stars have some explaining to do

U.S. basketball players line up before an exhibition basketball game at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. From left to right are Andre "Silk" Poole, Kenny Anderson, Guy Dupree, Doug Christie, Jerry Dupree, Antoinne Scott, Cliff Robinson, Charles D. Smith and Vin Baker. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

Kim Kwang Hyon/AP

Former NBA players like Kenny Anderson and ex-Knick Charles Smith, among others, take part in Dennis Rodman’s bizarre birthday celebration of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

The familiar voice on the other end of the phone belonged to Kenny Anderson, the former Molloy star, one-time NBA all-star for the New Jersey Nets and New York City basketball legend. His brief message ended with, “God bless and stay up!”

You couldn’t leave a message on Wednesday because Anderson’s mail box is full, for good reason. Everybody wants to talk to him and have him explain what he could have possibly been thinking when he decided it would be a grand idea to go over to North Korea with a group of former NBA players.

The story was that they were going to merely engage in some innocent “basketball diplomacy,” according to the trip’s organizer, Dennis Rodman. We all know that Rodman has a few screws loose, way more than when he carried on like a fool as the NBA rebounding king, and how he ever got in good with a ruthless dictator like Kim Jong Un is truly one of life’s great mysteries.


But that doesn’t excuse Anderson and the other players from joining with Rodman to play a game in Pyongyang and help celebrate Kim’s birthday no less. They got money for going, of course they did, and it’s all blood money.

Vin Baker (l.) and his teammates already look like they regret their decision to play in North Korea.

Kim Kwang Hyon/AP

Vin Baker (l.) and his teammates already look like they regret their decision to play in North Korea.

Less than a month from retirement, David Stern probably thought he’d never have to talk about Rodman ever again. But then here he was issuing a statement denouncing the trip that his league had nothing to do with, and trying to keep the NBA’s good name from being dragged into the controversy.

The NBA does a lot of very good work overseas, but it would never, ever set foot in North Korea. Who would?


“Although sports in many instances can be helpful in bridging cultural divides,” Stern said, “this is not one of them.”

Anderson is a good person at heart. There is no denying that. But in this case, he and the other former NBA players who went on the trip, including ex-Knick Charles Smith, Vin Baker, Sleepy Floyd, Craig Hodges, Clifford Robinson and Doug Christie, must have all suffered from the same brain lock when they agreed to follow Rodman to one of the world’s cruelest places.

Dennis Rodman serenades North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un with a strange version of 'Happy Birthday.'

Kim Kwang Hyon/AP

Dennis Rodman serenades North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un with a strange version of ‘Happy Birthday.’

Smith is no dummy and yet in advance of the trip was quoted as saying, “Cultural exchange is about sharing. Sharing ideas and thoughts on education, culture and life.”


Perhaps Smith and the other players who went to Pyongyang should have educated themselves on some of the magnificent aspects of culture and life in North Korea before they agreed to become Rodman’s accomplices. All the players had to do was go to the Website of Human Rights Watch and they could have read up on a litany of evil things being done at the behest of Rodman’s good friend, a first-class fiend he has called “an awesome guy.”

There are three pages of information, with headings that will make your skin crawl, including “Food Shortages and Famine,” “Torture and Inhuman Treatment,” and “Executions and Political Prisoner Camps.”

Anderson, Smith and the others should have taken the time to read the full report, highlighted by:

Doug Christie (l.) warms up prior to Wednesday's exhibition game in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Kim Kwang Hyon/AP

Doug Christie (l.) warms up prior to Wednesday’s exhibition game in Pyongyang, North Korea.


“Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans, including children, are imprisoned in Kim’s camps … here many perish from forced labor, inadequate food and abuse by guards. More than 25 percent of North Korean children under the age of five suffered from chronic malnutrition in 2012, according to the National Nutrition Survey of North Korea, a report backed by UNICEF, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.”

Rodman is beyond saving when it comes to Kim. But if the others had done their homework, you bet Rodman would have been going to Pyongyang solo. He’s nothing but an apologist for Kim, telling CNN: “I am not going to sit there and go in and say ‘hey guy, you’re doing the wrong thing.”’

Rodman is blind to all of the suffering, gladly singing Happy Birthday to Kim before Anderson, Smith and the others participated in the exhibition game. By game time, a few players were said to be having second thoughts about showing support for the repressive regime, Smith included.

“I felt huge, I felt on top of the world. But I feel the reverse now,” he said. “I feel a lot of remorse for the guys because we are doing something positive, but it’s a lot bigger than us.”

Smith tried to make it sound as if this whole thing was beyond the control of the players. Oh, really? He and Anderson and all the others did not have to go to North Korea. They might have forced labor there. Not here.


Nation / World – NY Daily News

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