Chris “Birdman” Andersen was circling the NBA’s proverbial trash heap when he was picked up by the Miami Heat in January. And no one could have predicted the impact he would have for the defending champs in the coming months.
“That’s already a movie. That’s Back to The Future, ain’t it?” Andersen said laughing.
With most of his body covered in tattoos, the mohawked 6-foot-10 Texan is known more for how he looks than how he plays. Teammates dubbed him “Birdman” because of his swooping style.
Andersen, 34, has filled a much-needed rebounding and scoring void that had threatened to derail the Heat’s chances at a repeat.
A year ago, the Denver Nuggets decided the Birdman was more like an albatross. He was given his release by the team after police began investigating his internet relationship with a minor. That investigation is ongoing.
Previous to that, he was kicked out of the NBA for two seasons between 2006 and 2008 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Andersen is reluctant to discuss his past, though he does admit though that each of the tattoos — covering about 75 percent of his frilled body — reflect the challenges he’s had to overcome.
But for teammates like forward Udonis Haslem, only the basketball matters.
“[He’s] another hard-nosed guy that competes. Rebounds, defends, blocks shots. The crowd loves him. They love him,” Haslem said. “When he comes in to the game or when he makes a huge play, he really makes our crowd excited and we feed off of that.”
Though only with the team for five months, “Bird is the word” for some Heat fans.
“He brings a lot of energy to the team, man, it’s amazing. It brings excitement not only the team, but also to the crowd and that’s what makes us go crazy for the Heat,” one fan said.
“What he shown is that he has tremendous resiliency, he’s tough and doesn’t mind getting in to a scuffle,” another fan said.
And Andersen says he’s grateful for the chance to prove himself again in Miami on basketball’s biggest stage.
“It’s amazing, but there’s still that task at hand and that’s winning the Finals and winning the championship,” he said. “And then, after that I’ll decide whether or not to do a movie script.”
But first, he’ll have to decide whether to stay in Miami, or fly the coop for more cash.
Andersen made just over $500,000 this season with Miami, mere chicken scratch for most NBA players, so it’s unclear if the Heat will be able to keep him in their nest in the future.