The NBA retirees on Dennis Rodman’s “dream team” playing basketball in North Korea to celebrate strongman Kim Jong-un’s birthday have largely led nightmare lives since departing the league. There’s no word on how much North Korea will pay the players, but, quite clearly, a few of them could use the cash.
Take the ultra talented Vin Baker, who made over $100 million in an NBA career cut short by alcohol. He told the New York Daily News last year that the money is almost gone. In 2008, a bank foreclosed on his 10,000-square-foot mansion, auctioning the Connecticut property for several million dollars. At around the same time, his restaurant failed. Two years ago, the four-time All-Star sued a financial firm for mishandling his money in an attempt to recoup $12 million. “I went to one of the lowest levels you could possibly go to, being where I was,” a reinvigorated and sober Baker told the Daily News. “And [God] was able to bring me back up. And it didn’t have to do with me becoming a millionaire again. It had to do with me changing my lifestyle, changing my addiction patterns. And that’s everything to me.”
Doug Christie moved from team to team during his fourteen years in the league. But the journeyman forward stayed anchored to his flamboyant wife Jackie. The couple made waves during Christie’s playing days by signaling to one another in hand gestures during games and travelling together on road trips. Doug announced a new marital enterprise last year: the production of pornographic films. They insist that their work will be behind the cameras and educational in intent. The new venture follows the couple’s forays into reality television, including BET’s The Christies Committed and VH1’s Basketball Wives.
After winning an NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1992, three-point ace Craig Hodges famously donned a dashiki upon visiting the White House and presented George H.W. Bush with a letter outlining his grievances against his administration. Four years later, he sued the NBA for $40 million, alleging that teams blackballed him because of his political activism and ties to Louis Farrakhan. His detractors noted that he couldn’t play defense. David Stern called the allegations “ridiculous” in the New York Times. “I was even at the White House when Craig wore the dashiki,” the commissioner told the paper. “I thought it looked great, and I told him so.”
Kenny Anderson, the second pick in the 1992 NBA draft, has fathered seven children by five different mothers, including Salt-n-Pepa’s DJ Spinderella. He signed a prenuptial agreement with his first wife, Tami Akbar of Real World: Los Angeles-fame. But then a court ruled it invalid in bitter divorce proceedings, awarding half of his assets to his ex-wife and $8,500-a-month child-support payments. The Real World”s Tami reportedly sported a “HISCASH” license plate on her car after the ruling. Last year, Davie, Florida’s David Posnack Jewish Day School fired Anderson, now on his third try at marriage, as its varsity basketball coach after his arrest for driving under the influence.
Not every former player travelling to the Hermit Kingdom grinds a political ax or suffers from money troubles. Charles Smith, who spent nine seasons with the Knicks, Clippers, and Spurs, launched a foundation that supports an after-school program for kids in Bridgeport, Connecticut, oversaw a digital media company for six years, and stays active in helping players transition to life after basketball.
“Cultural exchange is about sharing,” Smith told the Associated Press, “sharing ideas and thoughts on education, culture, and life.”
What “ideas” and “thoughts” might cross the minds of the faded players performing for the fledgling dictator?
The Christies, assuming Jackie remains as enthusiastic for the Pyongyang road trip as she was for visits to Miami, Orlando, and Los Angeles during Doug’s halcyon days, might think about how their venture into instructional pornography would play out in the Communist regime. In August, Kim Jong-un executed a former girlfriend and twenty others on pornography charges. In November, the North Koreans executed eight more on pornography and sex-related offenses in front of a stadium of 10,000 people–a crowd similar in size to the one Christie will be performing for on the leader’s birthday.
Kenny Anderson, the father of children by five different women, might ponder the fate of his kids in North Korea. The nation abducts illegitimate children as policy and raises them in state-run orphanages away from the influence of their corrupt parents.
For Vin Baker, an aspiring preacher who credits God with saving him from addiction, thoughts of his fate if he were a North Korean rather than an American might occur. Kim Jong-un’s prison state has long considered belief in God as an act of espionage, punishable by death.
And Craig Hodges, who once showed up the president of the United States in his own house, certainly will think twice about a repeat performance. Desecrating pictures of the leader, or even failing to display one properly, can result in execution.
Not everyone sees the “basketball diplomacy” in as positive a light as Charles Smith. “The trip comes at the worst possible time–after Kim Jong-un brutally solidified his grip on power–and with no progress towards denuclearization,” Congressman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Breitbart.com. “This basketball game will do nothing to improve the abysmal human rights conditions in North Korea. It’s a propaganda win for the regime.”
If they don’t return home with a renewed appreciation for America, the basketball giants might thank God for their height. North Korea has long pursued an eradication campaign against little people–ones even smaller than the diminutive Kim Jong-un–that has relied on imprisonment and eugenics. Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, strangely proclaimed, “The race of dwarves must disappear.”
The ballers don’t have much to worry about on that front. But their lifestyles and outspokeness might cause an epiphany of appreciation for their place of birth. Alas, who has time for “thoughts on education, culture, and life”–or the regime’s war on God, family, and freedom–when counting all that money. It’s good to be tall.