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How Dennis Rodman Became Close With ‘Dear Friend’ Kim Jong-Un & Vladimir Putin

Photo: Featureflash Photo Agency | Alexander Khitrov | Frederic Legrand - COMEO | Shutterstock | Twitter
Vladimir Putin, Dennis Rodman, Kim Jong-un

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman recently announced that he will be going to Russia to help advocate for the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner after claiming that he has an amicable friendship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

In a recent statement to NBC, Rodman revealed that he received "permission to go to Russia" to help Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in prison on drug charges in Russia earlier this month.

While many experts, including a senior Biden administration official, are warning against Rodman going to Russia, saying that it would do more harm than good, Rodman has a relatively friendly relationship with Putin, as well as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Why is Dennis Rodman friends with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un?

Rodman and Putin have seemingly been amicable since 2014 after the NBA star took a trip to Moscow and later called Putin "cool."

Rodman also told NBC News that he knows the Russian president "too well."

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Along with Rodman's friendship with Putin, he has also remained close with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim reportedly has been an avid basketball fan with a certain interest in the Chicago Bulls. Rodman, who had played for the team from 1995 to 1998. Kim later invited Rodman to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, for their first meeting in March 2013.

Rodman was also criticized for hugging Kim and telling the authoritarian leader, "You have a friend for life."

It didn't take long before the unlikely friendship between Rodman and Kim began to blossom. The basketball player continued to make trips to North Korea, sometimes accompanied by other basketball players, to spend time with Kim.

In 2014, Rodman traveled to Russia and sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim on the basketball court and appeared to bow to the North Korean leader.

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Rodman had also been a catalyst for American missionary Kenneth Bae's release from North Korea imprisonment. 

"Kenneth Bae did one thing ... If you understand what Kenneth Bae did. Do you understand what he did in this country? No, no, no, you tell me, you tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country, why? ... I would love to speak on this," Rodman told CNN when asked whether he would raise Bae's release in talks with Kim.

His comments caused a stir of controversy, which led Rodman to later apologize and call for Bae's release directly, writing: "My dear friend for life, Marshall Kim Jong Un."

Though Kim never responded to Rodman's letter, Bae was released later that week after being detained for two years and thanked Rodman for his role in helping him get free.

In 2018, Rodman was present during the official summit between former President Donald Trump and Kim, which took place in Singapore. While Rodman didn't have an official role in the summit, he told reporters that he was "just happy to be a part of it because I think I deserve it."

Rodman also jokingly told the Associated Press, via ESPN, that he "should be pushing for the Nobel Peace Prize. At least give me a piece of it, something like that. An honorable mention," for his role in Trump and Kim's meeting.

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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter.