There’s not much the general public knows about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but one defining and quirky trait has caught the public’s attention: his surprising love of the NBA. Here is the untold truth of Kim Jong Un’s basketball obsession.
He Became Friends with Dennis Rodman
When Kim Jong Un first took over leadership of the country in 2011, very little was known about him and it was nearly impossible for anyone from the United States to be granted a meeting with him. That all changed when former Chicago Bulls basketball player Dennis Rodman heard that the leader wanted to meet him and requested a visit.
Since then, Dennis has been Kim Jong Un’s guest six different times and has repeatedly called the leader one of his good friends. There have been numerous pictures taken of the two together and they seem to have a great time watching basketball, enjoying tours of the country, and just chatting it up.
He Has a Collection of Air Jordans
Kim Jong Un’s indulgences in pricy luxury items has been the cause of much speculation, especially since the people of North Korea suffer from starvation and poor living conditions. One of his favorite things to do is collect Nike Air Jordan basketball shoes, and it’s reported that he has an enormous collection of shoes that cost over $200 per pair.
Though he may not spend as much on shoes as he does on imported liquor (a reported $44,000 per year), it still is an indulgence that probably doesn’t sit well with those who can’t put food on the table.
He’s Invented His Very Own Scoring System
Though Kim Jong Un is a huge fan of the NBA, the American league’s rules clearly aren’t good enough for him. That’s why he’s invented his very own scoring system and he insists everyone who plays in his country follow by his rules.
Under Kim’s system, slam dunks are worth three points, three-pointers are worth four if the ball doesn’t touch the rim, a point is deducted for missed free throws, and any baskets made during the final three minutes of a game are worth eight points instead of two.
He Played the Game at his Pricey Swiss Private School
It’s recently come to light that Kim Jong Un spent time in a pricey school in Switzerland during his teenage years. For his protection, the leader went by the name Un Pak and his classmates were told he was the son of a diplomat. What many of his schoolmates recall about him, though, is his love for basketball.
He showed up on his first day in a Bulls jersey and Nike trainers and was always up for a game of hoops with anyone who would play with him. Though he never stood out in any of his study subjects, those who knew him said he wasn’t too shabby on the court. In fact, his obsession with basketball was one of the things that distracted him from his schoolwork and he was eventually removed from the school to attend a less expensive state school before he graduated.
He Hosted an NBA Exhibition Game
With his close relationship to Dennis Rodman, Kim Jong Un was able to arrange an exhibition game held in Pyongyang in 2014. Over 14,000 people attended the game at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium that featured a squad of former NBA standouts against North Korea’s best.
The game was specifically arranged to coordinate with Kim Jong Un’s birthday, and his good friend Rodman sang him a very special “Happy Birthday” song on the court to commemorate the occasion.
He Was Given 90s Bulls Playoff Games on VHS
So, how does a man who was raised in one of the most reclusive countries in the world develop a love for an American game? It’s reported that Kim Jong Un was introduced to the sport by his father’s chef who also acted as a nanny to the young Kim. The chef had a sister who lived in Japan and had her send him VHS tapes of the Bulls 90s playoff games. He shared these videos with Kim Jong Un, who fell in love with the sport—and the team—and has been a die-hard fan ever since.
As North Korea becomes less private under Kim Jong Un’s rule, more and more is coming out about the eccentric leader. Everyone seems to know that Kim Jong Un is a fan of quite a few Western luxuries, but his obsessive love of the NBA might just be one of the oddest.