PYONGYANG, North Korea, Dec. 23 (UPI) —
Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman left North Korea Monday praising the local basketball players he trained but he did not meet the country’s leader, officials said.
Rodman spent four days in North Korea — his third visit to the country — to help set up an exhibition game featuring North Korean players and a dozen NBA veteran players whose names have not been revealed, CNN reported.
The exhibition game is planned for leader Kim Jong Un’s birthday Jan. 8.
"They are awesome," the 52-year-old Rodman told CNN, describing the players he worked with in North Korea.
Rodman struck up a friendship with Kim when he traveled to North Korea for the first time in February for a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition game watched by Kim, who is a basketball fan.
During Rodman’s second visit, the two dined and the American told Kim he "had a friend for life."
After the latest visit, Rodman told CNN he wasn’t worried about not seeing Kim.
"I’ll see him again," he said. "I will be coming back in another week."
Rodman’s latest trip was sponsored by online betting company Paddy Power, which said the visit was non-political.