BEIJING: Former NBA star Charles Smith said on Friday that a basketball game organised by Dennis Rodman in North Korea had achieved the players’ mission of deepening “cultural exchanges” with the reclusive state.
“On behalf of all the players that went on the trip, it’s probably best to say that we set out on a mission to use basketball as a bridge for cultural exchange and we accomplished that mission,” the former New York Knicks power forward told reporters at Beijing airport.
Smith returned from Pyongyang with other retired NBA players who took part in an exhibition match Wednesday marking the birthday of reclusive leader Kim Jong-Un, which has sparked huge controversy in the US.
The flamboyant former Chicago Bulls player Rodman was not with the group.
Rodman has developed an unlikely relationship with the young North Korean leader since making his first trip there in February, when he declared Kim a “friend for life”.
At the exhibition match on Wednesday, a heavily tattooed Rodman sang Happy Birthday to Kim, who was watching the game in a packed Pyongyang auditorium.
Rodman has been widely criticised for failing to raise human rights issues or the plight of jailed American Kenneth Bae during his visits to the North.
But Smith said he had “no regrets” about playing, adding: “All of us agree that the trip was simply incredible.” AFP