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Kim Jong-Il Dead: North Korean Dictator's Successor Apparently Loves The Lakers

On Sunday, it was announced that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il had died. Kim Jong-Il, by all accounts, was a pretty awful guy (and yes, I know that's an understatement). He was also known as something of an eccentric, as well as rumored to be a big NBA fan. His successor, son Kim Jong-un (formerly "Youth Commander" Kim Jong-un) is a huge basketball fan as well, but his fandom goes beyond mere speculation. He even displays a picture of himself with a well-known Southern California hoops superstar.

By way of Alex Groberman at Opposing Views comes some tidbits from a 2009 edition of the Chosun Ilbo, one of South Korea's largest newspapers. Jong-un studied abroad, at one point attending a Swiss school. Here are some of the money tidbits from classmates of Jong-un, as per the English edition of the Chosun Ilbo:

He worshipped basketball players in the NBA. A friend who visited his apartment at #10, Kirchstrasse, Liebefeld, recalls that Kim had a room filled with NBA-memorabilia.

"He proudly showed off photographs of himself standing with Toni Kukoc of the Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. It is unclear where the pictures were taken. On at least one occasion, a car from the North Korean Embassy drove Pak Un to Paris to watch an NBA exhibition game," the daily said.

Classmates also claim that Jong-un was a competitive basketball player himself and owned a collection of Nike sneakers. 

It's interesting that the article only notes Bryant and Kukoc. Perhaps those are the only two players who visited Paris and hung around for photos. Maybe Jong-un only cares about players who have won three NBA Championships or more.

Still, it seems undeniable that the North Korean nuclear armament is now at the disposal of someone who has a rooting interest in the NBA. It's a crazy old world out there in 2011, but I think even the ruler of North Korea can agree: it's nice that we're going to have a 2011-12 NBA season, no matter how truncated.

To keep up to date with the Los Angeles Lakers and their ties to world leaders, please visit Silver Screen and Roll.