Dennis Rodman: 'I tell the world - I love Kim Jong Un'
And so, the greatest love story never told continues with Dennis Rodman proclaiming his unconditional devotion to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Yes, the same dictator that had his own uncle executed in a political purge a few weeks ago. Apparently like this, though those claims now look like they could be the bizarre work of a Chinese satirist.
The basketball star, who has taken on the role of coach for the national team, landed in the country earlier today flanked by a troop of 11 retired NBA players. Together, they will stage a special one-off match to celebrate the leader’s 31st birthday on Wednesday.
Rodman previously described Jong Un as a "friend for life". But the pair could be set for their first tiff, as Rodman confirmed to reporters at Beijing airport that he would approach the subject of human rights with his BFF "when the time comes".
"I am not going to sit there and go in and say 'hey guy, you’re doing the wrong thing'," he told Sky News.
"That’s not the right thing to do. He’s my friend first. He’s my friend. I don’t give a ****.
"I tell the world: he’s my ******* friend, I love him."
In another strange and slightly questionable financial tie-in, the event, comically named the 'Big Bang in Pyongyang', was due to be sponsored by book makers Paddy Power. But the Irish company pulled funding, explaining in a statement:
"Given changed circumstances, Paddy Power has decided to withdraw its association with the Dennis Rodman basketball initiative in North Korea."
Rodman first attempted to explain his friendship - and why he’d decided to take on the role of coach to the North Korean international team - with Jong Un in December.
"I came over here to meet the basketball team, to prepare a great game for the Leader for his birthday," Rodman told the Press Association of his trip to train the North Korean basketball team
"And people need to understand that it's not important for me to meet him every time I come over because he has another, greater job to do for his country. And I respect that.
"But this trip was basically to come over to train the team, so we can have a great, great, game."
Their unlikely camaraderie was originally stoked up when Rodman travelled to Pyongyang earlier this year with the Harlem Globetrotters to take part in an HBO TV special.
"A lot of people in America don't approve of what I've been doing," he added, "But that's not my problem."