Miami Heat forward-center Chris Andersen is one of the most colorful players in the NBA, both literally and figuratively. Known for his mass amount of bright tattoos, the character known as "Birdman" has gone from a drug-addicted castoff to a huge asset for a title contending team.
|Photo by: Steve Mitchell|
Signed by the Denver Nuggets that same year, Andersen averaged 3.9 points per game over the next three seasons. He was picked up by the New Orleans Hornets in '04, and participated in both the 2004 and 2005 slam dunk contest, finishing third and fourth, respectively.
However, Birdman's career nearly came to an abrupt end in January of 2006, as he was kicked out of the NBA for violating the league's anti-drug policy. He had tested positive for a banned substance, believed by many to be cocaine. His suspension would last two years, after which he could attempt an appeal.
Andersen entered rehab and took a drug test every other week. He was determined to get clean and make another attempt at a career in basketball. On March 4th, 2008, he got his chance. The Players Association granted an appeal, and Birdman was successfully reinstated into the league.
The very next day, Andersen re-upped with the Hornets, but was released later that season. He then signed with the Nuggets for a second time, and his return to Denver proved to be a success. He became a fan favorite thanks to his spiked hair, tattoos and outgoing personality. Andersen spent three more years in the Mile High City before being amnestied following the 2011 season. This set in motion Birdman's descent on South Beach.
Andersen originally signed two 10-day contracts with the Miami Heat before finally inking for the remainder of the year in February. He's been a major contributor off the bench in the playoffs, providing some much-needed defensive tenacity on one end of the floor, as well as high-percentage shooting (86%) on the other.
Chris "Birdman" Andersen's story is truly inspiring. He's gone from the depths of drug addiction to an x-factor on a team in search of back-to-back NBA championships. He may not be the best player in the league, but the fact that he has come back from the lowest point a person can be to what he is now is certainly something to be admired.