By Scott Conroy – March 5, 2013 —
As one of the so-called “Bad Boys” of the Detroit Pistons, Dennis Rodman’s physical style of play helped his team win back-to-back NBA championships, though his sharp elbows on and off the court earned him plenty of critics along the way.
But the heat Rodman took during his basketball career was nothing compared to the collective scolding he faced last week upon returning from North Korea, where he served as an unofficial envoy along with members of the Harlem Globetrotters and staff from Vice magazine.
Though Rodman has faced nearly universal criticism over his supportive comments about the Stalinist dictator, North Korea scholars have quietly wondered whether the ostentatious former hoops star might have initiated a form of “basketball diplomacy” that could pay real dividends.
After Rodman declared at an airport press conference that he “loved” the “awesome” basketball-loving Kim Jong-un, George Stephanopoulos took a critical tone in his “This Week” interview with the Hall of Famer, who is the only known American to meet and interact with the leader of the nuclear-armed regime.
“Next time you go back, you should bring this report from The Human Rights Watch with you and maybe ask some questions about that,” Stephanopoulos said at the conclusion of the bizarre interview, in which Rodman gave a series of rambling responses to charges that he had handed Kim a propaganda victory. “You might learn a lot more.”
At the end of the interview, an increasingly defensive Rodman pointed a finger at Stephanopoulos and pleaded, “Don’t hate me.”