SEOUL (ABC) - Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is on way to Pyongyang today for a five-day visit to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but the trip he said is not to free jailed American missionary Kenneth Bae.
"I'm going to North Korea to meet my friend, Kim," Rodman told reporters while transiting at Beijing's airport earlier today. "It's a friendly gesture."
Bae, currently serving a 15 year sentence of hard labor in North Korea, was arrested for attempting to overthrow the communist government. Negotiations for his release was canceled at the last minute by North Korea just before Robert King, U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, was to visit Pyongyang last week.
Pyongyang's excuse for the abrupt withdrawal was disapproval of the U.S. military participating in annual joint drills with South Korea.
Rodman, the first American to have met Kim in February, noted this trip is "another basketball diplomacy tour." His earlier visit had stunned the diplomatic world when very little was known about Kim Jong Un's personality.
The former basketball star was spotted hugging, drinking, and laughing with Kim who is known to have been a fan of Rodman from teenage years when he was educated in Switzerland. The trip had been organized by the cable channel Vice to promote an exhibition game and make a documentary.
Rodman has referred Kim as "an awesome kid" and gave lavish praises after spending time with him earlier this year.
Rodman said that Kim's father and grandfather Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, "were great leaders," according to the Associated Press. "He's proud, his country likes him — not like him, love him, love him," Rodman said of Kim Jong Un. "Guess what, I love him. The guy's really awesome."
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Miami Heat are back in control of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals.
LeBron James scored 22 points and the Heat shot 55 percent in a 114-96 win over the Pacers at Indiana, giving Miami a 2-1 series lead. Udonis Hsalem shot 8-for-9 and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds as the Heat bounced back from Friday's 97-93 loss to the Pacers. Dwyane Wade chipped in 18 points, eight assists and four rebounds for Miami, which took command by outscoring Indiana 36-26 to grab a 14-point halftime lead.
The Heat broke a team playoff record by scoring 70 points in the opening half, and tied a team playoff mark with just one first-half turnover.
David West had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Pacers, while Roy Hibbert added 20 points and a game-high 17 boards. Indiana also shot 8-for-14 from three-point range but just 40 percent from the field overall.
The series stays in Indianapolis for Game 4 on Tuesday.
NEW YORK (AP) — Miami's LeBron James was a unanimous pick for the All-NBA team. James received all 119 votes for the first team from a panel of sports writer and broadcasters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers is also a first-teamer, marking his record-tying 11th first-team selection. Joining James and Bryant on the first team are Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant, San Antonio center Tim Duncan and Clippers guard Chris Paul.
Bryant tied Utah Hall of Famer Karl Malone with his 11th first-team nod.
NBA scoring leader Carmelo Anthony led the second team, joined by guards Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker, center Marc Gasol (gah-SOHL') and forward Blake Griffin.
The third team was Houston's James Harden, Miami's Dwyane (dwayn) Wade, Lakers center Dwight Howard and forwards Paul George of Indiana and David Lee of Golden State.
MIAMI (AP) — It was an MVP performance by the NBA's top player.
LeBron James hit a layup as time expired in overtime to lift the Miami Heat past the Indiana Pacers 103-102 in Game 1 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals. The Heat led 101-99 until Paul George hit three free throws with 2.2 remaining in overtime. James bailed out the Heat by driving down the left side of the lane and providing the game's 17th and final lead change.
James finished with his ninth postseason triple-double, delivering 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The Heat also received solid production from Chris Anderson, who came off the bench and added 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting. Dwyane (dwayn) Wade chipped in 19 points, six rebounds and five assists before fouling out.
The Pacers' starting forwards accounted for 72 points. George was high man for the Pacers with 27 points, David West finished with 26 and Roy Hibbert had 19 and nine rebounds.
Game 2 is Friday at Miami.
NEW YORK (AP) - NBA veteran center Jason Collins has become the first male professional athlete in the major four American sports leagues to come out as gay.Collins wrote a first-person account posted Monday on Sports Illustrated's website.
The 34-year-old Collins has played for six NBA teams in 12 seasons. He finished this past season with the Washington Wizards and is now a free agent. He says he wants to continue playing.
The Twitter tribute followed news that Buss died Monday at a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 80. He'd been hospitalized for most of the past 18 months while undergoing cancer treatment.
Under the ownership of Buss since 1979, the Lakers became Southern California's most beloved sports franchise, and became linked in the eyes of the world to Hollywood glamour.
And few owners in sports history can rival his success. The Lakers made the NBA finals 16 times since Buss bought the team, winning 10 times between 1980 and 2010. The team is now largely run by two of his six children, Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss.
Jerry Buss always referred to the Lakers as his extended family, and the players rewarded his fan-like excitement with devotion and friendship, in addition to the ten championships. Magic Johnson and fellow Hall-of-Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy formed lifelong bonds with Buss.
Courtside seats for the Lakers are the hottest tickets in Hollywood -- with Jack Nicholson and many other celebrities attending every home game.
NBA Commissioner David Stern is remembering Buss as a "visionary owner" whose impact on the league "will be felt for decades to come."