Though the NBA does not have a team in Pyongyang, the league does have in North Korea a famous fan as devoted to the hoops game as Jack Nicholson is to his 2009 World Champion Los Lakers Lakers. That would be Jack‘s twisted semi-doppelganger Kim Jong-il.
Per a fascinating 2006 article in the San Diego Tribune, KJ is a certifiable NBA nut, addicted to early local-morning time U.S. telecasts of regular season and playoff games. In fact, when former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright became the first high-level U.S. official to pay a personal visit to the “Dear Leader“ in 2000, she presented him with the gift of an official NBA basketball signed by Michael Jordan. KJ was surprised, then thrilled, and made sure to have the keepsake housed in a glass case at the Museum of International Understanding, located north of Pyongyang.
Does this mean that instead of Al Gore or New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, it should be MJ or Jordan ‘s Air-apparent Kobe Bryant who hops a plane to North Korea as U.S. special envoy? Of course not.
But with Kim Jong-il acting like a post-2008 stroke victim in the full throes of geopolitical dementia, part of me wishes that Ling and Lee’s fellow L.A. resident Bryant could take out a full-page ad in North Korea’s Rodung Sinmon mouthpiece newspaper and appeal to KJ by means of some basic hardwood lingo.
“You’re running the wrong offense, KJ, and have drafted into the big game two bench players who should never have been put on the team, let alone been forced to suit up. Place them on waivers immediately, and you have my personal assurances that the next high-level U.S. official to pay a visit to Pyongyang will bring with them a second basketball for your museum, signed by me and the rest of your 2009 World Champion L.A. Lakers.” (Kim Jong-il‘s third son Kim Jong-un, who is taking over leadership of the country, is said to be an equally avid NBA fan.)