At the end of her two-day trip to North Korea in October 2000, a historic but ultimately failed effort to thaw relations, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright presented her host with a gift. The State Department officials working on the trip had put special attention into selecting and procuring the item, which they hoped might show an earnest desire for more direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. Albright handed Kim an authentic NBA basketball signed by Michael Jordan.
"He may have been initially surprised by it, but you could tell he was pleased. I don't think he expected it. It was a very personal gesture, in a sense," a former State Department and CIA official told the San Diego Union-Tribune of Kim's reaction. "It showed him we went through some effort to get the signature. They realized it wasn't just an ordinary ball."