Chris “Birdman” Andersen's journey with the Denver Nuggets has come to an end.
On Tuesday, the Nuggets used their Amnesty Clause to cut ties with Andersen, to make room for Anthony Randolph.
For those that follow the Mile High City's pro basketball team, this move comes as no surprise, as Birdman's on-court abilities declined over the last few years and, for one reason or another, he got into George Karl's doghouse and was unable to escape.
From the first time he stepped onto the court in Denver in 2001, Birdman was a fan favorite.
He's larger than life in every sense of the word.
His 6'10” frame towers taller than seven-feet when his hair is gelled up in the trademark mohawk he rocked on the court.
He can regularly be seen driving around town in his International CXT, the world's larges production truck.
His personality is more colorful than the hundred of technicolor tattoos that litter his body.
In giant letters across his neck, Birdman's most noticeable new tat reads, “FREE BIRD,” he is now.
On the hardwood, Bird played with a reckless abandon, flying through the air for wild and clumsy dunks, soaring high into the night to swat away opponent's shots, sometimes falling for head-fakes and falling to the floor with a thunderous thud, only to spring back to life once again.
For Chris Andersen, many of his personal life's trials and tribulations parallel the way he played the game.
His is a rags to riches to rags to riches tale.
(Chris Palmer of ESPN the Magazine put together a phenomenal piece four years ago on Birdman and his personal life. The following draws from that piece. Read the full article here.)
Andersen came from nothing; moved from California to Iola, Texas when he was 10 years old with his family, only to have his father leave his mother to fend for herself and three kids. They slept in a barn that was on the property because the house they were building remained unfinished when Andersen's dad few the coup.
He worked hard though—at least on the basketball court—and was to play at Houston, except, he couldn't work hard in the classroom. So, the stringy near seven-footer went to Blinn Junior College, averaging 10.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and a best-in-the-nation 4.7 blocks per game.
But Birdman was a bit of a bird brain, declaring, but not officially applying, for the draft.
He played in exhibition games and landed in China with the Chinese Basketball League, playing there from 1999-2000 before the Nuggets took a chance on him and drafted Andersen No. 1 overall in the inaugural NBA Developmental League Draft.
Birdman only played two games in the D-League, immediately becoming the first ever D-League call-up in 2001.
In his first three seasons, he played decently for Denver, blocking shots well and providing excellent energy off the bench. But a lack of growth from year two-three left the Bird without a nest.
He'd roost in New Orleans for the next year, setting career-highs in nearly every category—including 7.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per—but just as Andersen's career was on the rise, he got in his own way.
His friends leeched off of him, so did women he dated, as he bailed them out of jail, let them live with him and bought them incredibly expensive cars.
He partied with the best of them, infamously able to kill a case of Bud Light by himself, but it was when he turned to harder drugs that Birdman hit rock bottom.
After playing two games the next year in New Orleans, Birdman was suspended by the league for using a “drug of abuse” that includes “amphetamine and its analogs, which include methamphetamine; cocaine; LSD; opiates, including heroin, codeine and morphine; and PCP.”
The Bird's wings were clipped.
He entered a drug rehab clinic, rid himself of the parasitic “friends” he'd been carrying for years, and worked his ass off to make it back into the NBA.
In March of 2008, Andersen was reinstated by the league, the next day, re-signed with the Hornets. They cut him though, and Denver, the team he began his NBA career with, re-singed him.
Birdman came into his own during that 2008-09 season, putting up 6.4 points and 6.2 boards per game, while blocking a second-best in the NBA 2.5 shots per contest. He was instrumental in the Nuggets' best season in years—being voted eighth in both NBA Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man awards—and sustained his play throughout Denver's Western Conference Finals playoff run.
He became a free agent again, flirted with the Lakers, and the Nuggets ended up re-signing him for a too-large deal of 5-years $26 million, a contract he couldn't live up to.
Following the 2009-10 season—when he averaged a career-high of 6.4 rebounds per—the Birdman couldn't effect games the way he had before. He was still a decent role player, but declining athleticism left him on the bench more often than on the floor.
He was still a fan favorite, with as many “Andersen” jerseys in the crowd as any other, kids dawning faux mohawks and fans flapping their arms after a big-time block or dunk. But those special moments were far and few between as of late.
With the Nuggets acquiring tons of bigman talent the last few years, Birdman's opportunities to earn playing time diminished.
Al Harrington hits threes, while the team looks to develop youngsters Timofey Mozgov and Kosta Koufos. Following the trade of Nene for McGee, the team found itself with too many bigs, one had to go.
It was the Birdman.
Will this be the last we see Andersen in the NBA?
Hopefully not, he's too colorful, too fun and funny to watch for the illustrious career of the illustrated on man to call it quits.