Former basketball star Dennis Rodman channelled the spirit of Marilyn Monroe by singing a breathless version of Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on Wednesday (08Jan14).

The retired sports ace struck up a bizarre friendship with the controversial dictator during a visit to the country last year (13) and he was back in the Asian nation this week (beg06Jan14) as part of his ongoing project to promote basketball among schoolchildren.

He took to an indoor court in the capital Pyongyang with fellow former professionals including Vin Baker, Kenny Anderson, and Charles D. Smith for a profile-raising game in front of local dignitaries on Wednesday, and before the event began, Rodman had a special gift for Jong-Un.

He stood in front of a microphone and sang one verse of Happy Birthday, imitating the infamous vocal delivery of Monroe when she performed the same stunt for U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

As Rodman sang, Jong-Un was seen smiling before applauding the sportsman's efforts.

However, not everyone was impressed with the performance - after the game ended, Rodman's pal Smith told reporters, "We always tell Dennis that he can't sing. He is tone deaf."