Sunday, May 3, 2009

"The Birdman" is the word, man.

If you know me, you know I'm a baseball guy. For me, this is baseball season. The NBA playoffs, the PGA, the NHL playoffs, the NFL draft ... that stuff is secondary entertainment. But these days there are fewer and fewer baseball games on television, leaving me to drift a bit from my comfort zone and pay a little more attention to the fore-mentioned events. Like right now. I'm watching Game 1 of the series between the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. Yeah, seriously. Not that I care who wins, but I always have to pick somebody. In this case it's Denver. George Karl is a Carolina guy; J.R. Smith should have been. Chauncey Billups is just a guy that you can't help rooting for. Carmelo Anthony is an Oak Hill alum, and that's where my grandmother graduated from in 1950 - long before the desolate high school became a breeding ground for NBA superstars-to-be.

Then there is Chris Andersen. This time a few years ago, I was crowing about what a clown this guy is. This dude dropped out of Houston and played one year at Blinn College before not getting drafted and ending up in China. Somehow he wound up in the NBA at some point after and was invited to the NBA All-Star Weekend in 2005 (he was also there in 2004) where he proceeded to embarrassed himself, and the the NBA. You may remember Andersen, also known as "Birdman", missing the first eight attempts at his first dunk, then clanking the first five attempts at his second. As it turned out, whiffing dunks in front of a national audience was the least of this guy's problems. In January of 2006, Andersen was suspended from the NBA for violating the league's anti-drug policy by testing positive for a banned substance. That substance was not identified, but was known not to be performance-enhancing drugs or marijuana. The substance was categorized under "drugs of abuse" leading The Denver Post to peg Andersen as "the most disgraced NBA player since the drug-induced haze of the 1980's." The article didn't say anything about how his grandfather abused him as a child, or how he was estranged from his mother. He and his long-time girlfriend broke things off when he arrived in New Orleans and Andersen lost his house in Hurricane Katrina.

It took him until March of 2008 to gain reinstatement into the NBA. Shortly thereafter, he found himself released by the New Orleans Hornets and signed to a one-year deal with the Nuggets. And now, in May 2009 I am watching this guy be a serious contributor on one of the most exciting team's in the NBA. Andersen, a shot-block specialist, looks like a moron. His hair is ridiculous and his excessive tattoos make him look like a hip-hop wannabe. At least that's what I used to think. It appears that this guy has made an effort to clean himself up and turn his life around. So every time he hype the crowd with his trademark wing flap - even though he looks more like a rooster than a bird that can actually fly - I sit here and love every second of it. If you have the ability to look in the mirror one day and muster enough courage to make those kind of changes, what difference does it make what you look like? If you're a Chris Andersen hater, just know that I used to be too. But the truth of the matter is, he is one hell of a basketball player. And it may not look like he has much sense, but he apparently had enough to do the right thing.

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