The Dear Reader: DPRK Observations & Musings


Where Unbelievable Happens

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.)

Update06/30/09: Based on this @WSJ article, perhaps I had the right NBA player but the wrong country. Kobe – we need you to put the full-court press on China!


Filed under: Commentary

6 Responses

  1. DIANE says:


  2. Spelunker says:

    Maybe Kim Jong-il will consider trading Laura and Euna for two of Kobe’s four NBA championship rings.
    Can you imagine the ensuing MVP puppet commercial?

    Kobe: “Hey Kim, have you seen my 4 NBA championship rings?”

    Kim: “No, but can you sign the other side of this basketball that was autographed by Michael Jordan?”

    Kobe: You see, Kim, each of these 4 Choco-pies represents one of my championship rings, …. *munch*munch*munch*munch* “You’ve got to be hungry, Kim Jong.”

    Kim: “Eel! Jong-il. My name is Kim Jong-il.”

    Kobe: “You can have my second and third championship rings in exchange for Laura Ling and Euna Lee”

    Kim: “OK Kobe, throw in the ring you gave your wife after cheating on her and you have a deal!”

  3. Spelunker says:

    For my comment on ROK Drop, I spent an hour researching Kobe Bryant news articles online trying to pinpoint one event in Europe where a certain North Korean schoolkid in Switzerland might have showed up for a photo opportunity.

    The Lakers did not play any exhibition games in Europe during the time period Kim Jong’il’s son was enrolled in a Switzerland school. Therefore the alleged photo with Kobe would have had to been taken during an individual promotional event that Kobe might have done during the summer of 2000. Unfortunately it would be difficult to find evidence of any such event now without actually asking Kobe Bryant or his father.

    In August 2001 Kobe Bryant went to Hong Kong and Beijing for two Adidas sponsored promotional appearances as well as photo opportunities with young fans, but that was a year after Kim Jong-il’s third son was reported as having left the Switzerland school.

    • liberatelaura says:

      Great detective work on your part. Your deduction that the photo opp of Kim Jong-un and Kobe could have taken place in Italy makes perfect sense.

      I have taken the liberty of emailing all this info (and related URLs) to L.A. Times writer Bill Plaschke. Perhaps he will ask Kobe at some future juncture…

  4. Spelunker says:

    Good luck! If sports reporter Bill Plaschke follows up on this and Kobe actually does remember an event in Italy where an Asian with Air Jordans posed with him, then I will treat you and Mr. Plaschke to dinner in Beijing at the restaurant of your choice, (not his!).

  5. […] on LiberateLaura: A Perfect Opening for Some NBA Diplomacy Where Unbelievable Happens Like this:LikeOne blogger likes this […]

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