Rodman and Kim sat side by side at an exhibition game in Pyongyang on Thursday, chatting as they watched players from North Korea and the U.S. play in mixed teams, Alex Detrick, a spokesman for the New York-based VICE media company, told The Associated Press.

Rodman later addressed Kim before a crowd of thousands, telling him, “You have a friend for life,” Detrick said.

The encounter makes Rodman the most high-profile American to meet with the young North Korean leader, said to be a diehard basketball fan, and comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.