Birdman: The Other Other White Meat

Brad ScottCorrespondent IMay 6, 2009

DENVER - APRIL 19:  Fans hold up a sign in support of 'The Birdman', Chris Andersen #11 of the Denver Nuggets as they face the New Orleans Hornets defends in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on April 19, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Hornets 113-84.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Despite his ability to fly, Chris Andersen is here to stay! The undrafted center/power forward for the Denver Nuggets (AKA Birdman) has put aside his ornithological antics and drug use to bring back a rare breed of player not seen in the NBA since Dennis Rodman.

Rodman gained success as "The Worm" so it's no coincidence Andersen coined himself Birdman, despite all his fans attributing it to his chicken-dance routine. Besides, a chicken's not even a bird. A bird doesn't get caught bare-handed by some overweight hillbilly in overalls.

And we all know the bird gets the worm. But in this case, it wasn't so early.

Chris Andersen went undrafted in the 1999 NBA Draft. He played in the Chinese Basketball League until 2001, when the Nuggets added him to their roster. He played three seasons with Denver before going to the Hornets in 2004, averaging only about 15 MPG coming off the bench for both teams.

He appeared in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2005. In a sideline interview, he famously uttered, "It's time for the Birdman to fly" and the 6'10" Long Beach native proceeded to miss his first 13 dunk attempts.

Shortly after, with enough drugs in his system to warrant an intervention from Timothy Leary, Andersen was banned from the NBA for two years for violating the league's drug policy. He tested positive for meth, cocaine, LSD, heroine, codeine, morphine, and PCP.

PCP? Really?? Now we really know why he thinks he can fly!

The Denver Post called him, "the most disgraced NBA player since the drug-induced haze of the 1980s."

Now, one year removed from his ban, he is hands-down The Comeback Player of the Year in the NBA.

Birdman is currently second in the league in BPG at 2.42 per contest despite playing only 20 MPG. That's 5.68 BPG per 48 minutes! Best in the NBA.

He made 55 percent of his field goals this season, shot 72 percent from the line, and averaged 6.2 RPG and 2.5 BPG. And he did it on a team that's a legitimate contender for the title. No easy stats come your way with the likes of Melo, Billups, K-Mart, Nene, and J.R. Smith on your team. Those guys go for the ball.

So far in the semi-finals he's averaging 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game, including six big blocks in Game 1 against a tall Mavericks lineup.

This white man can jump. And that's probably why he won't ever be taken as seriously as the aforementioned Rodman.

If he were on a meat-platter at an AIG Fundraiser Event, he'd be the turkey. Only good if hidden between two slices of bread and smothered with enough mustard you might as well be eating tofu, or tofurkey. A one-dimensional meat that needed a holiday tradition implemented just to get those over-sized birds off the supermarket shelves.

But at least the turkey is responsible for its own unpopularity. Where's the flavor? Why does it take two days to cook the damn thing? Stuff it? Isn't it supposed to be the one doing the stuffing?

No, Birdman isn't responsible for his near-unknown status in the NBA. The responsibility lies on the nearly-identical play by most white, American NBA players. A work-horse that can do the "little things" a team may overpay them for.

Since we're now in the playoffs, the first images that come to mind when thinking of current white, American players are Matt Scalabrini and Luke Walton. A doughy, red-head player with the luckiest timing known to man, and a guy on the roster because he's the son of a legendary player.

The only current aforementioned players that do not fit that mold are David Lee, Kirk Hinrich, and Jason Williams (who reinvented the no-look-pass).

It's not a race issue. We all know plenty of white European/Canadian players in the All-Star lineup. The new-generation NBA wants excitement from above the rim, and inexplicably America's best white athletes have been choosing baseball and football over basketball.

Thankfully for them, Europe still plays futbol.

It's just the way it is. I don't find the NBA to have any different persona attached to it than any other professional league. Ten years ago, maybe.

Maybe the resurgence of Chris Andersen in all his "renaissance-fulness" will spark some future emulators of Birdman and continue to add to an exciting breed of NBA player.

He's better than Rodman. Times his blocks like Dwight Howard. Excites the crowd. And best of all, unlike his wormy predecessor, we will never have to see him in a wedding dress.

Let's just hope he doesn't enter another dunk contest. Or decides to go on tour now that Phish "has gotten the ole jam band back together."