Heat reaping benefits from Birdman's redemption

Wed Nov 6, 2013 1:09pm EST
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By Frank Pingue

TORONTO (Reuters) - It is hard for a reserve player to stand out alongside freakishly tall and more talented athletes, but Chris Andersen, the Miami Heat's heavily-tattooed and mohawked big man, is doing just that on the NBA's best team.

Despite having much higher-profile teammates like four-time league most valuable player LeBron James and nine-time All-Star Dwyane Wade, eyes are often locked on Andersen when he steps onto the court with his rock-star looks.

But the brightly colored tattoos that cover his arms, chest, neck, back, hands and legs along with his signature game-time hairdo are not all Andersen brings to the Heat.

"He's brought a lot of energy to the team, something that we needed, somebody that could bring a spark off the bench," Heat point guard Mario Chalmers said before Miami's 104-95 road win against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.

"A great finisher around the rim and an excellent shot blocker. Birdman is constant energy."

Andersen earned the Birdman nickname for his tenacious playing style, which often finds the 6-foot-10 forward flying through the lane to block shots and leaping to the basket for ferocious slam dunks.

He has even embraced his bird-like persona by tattooing a series of feathers across his back and performing a celebratory arm flap after a good play.

But the radical look pales in comparison to the unlikely path Andersen, 35, took before earning a place on the Heat's roster midway through the 2012-13 season, which culminated with a win over the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.   Continued...

Nov 5, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough (50) is fouled as he goes to the basket against Miami Heat forward Chris Andersen (11) and forward LeBron James (6) at Air Canada Centre. The Heat beat the Raptors 104-95. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports