The Miami Heat's midseason acquisition of Chris Andersen has been an unqualified success, with the athletic big man providing just the right combination of offensive rebounding, shot-blocking, running the floor, half-court defensive activity and power-dunking panache to make him a perfect fit off the bench for Erik Spoelstra's top-seeded squad. And as strong as the high-flying Andersen has been on the court, he's proving to be just as big a hit in the stands, as Heat fans — young and old, big and small, garden-variety and national-broadcast-governing — have taken quite a shine to the uniquely coiffed and decorated "Birdman."
We saw the "big" side of the spectrum during the second quarter of Game 2 of the Heat's opening-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, after Andersen snuck up from behind to erase a Marquis Daniels layup that would've cut Miami's lead to two points:
We here at BDL hope that gentleman had fun at his postgame toga party.
But, as one might expect given Bird's extremely colorful look, he's been a hit with younger fans, too — and this young Heat fan, rightly celebrated in the stands during a recent game between the Heat and Chicago Bulls at the AmericanAirlines Arena:
My man's even got the star "tattoos" on his earlobes, just like the big Bird. Now that's dedication (and a pretty cool parenting job). Even Andersen himself was impressed, according to Shandel Richardson of the Palm Beach Post: "I didn't think those [tattoos] were fake. I thought those were real. I need to go talk to his artist. They were pretty clean." High praise from a man who, clearly, knows what he's talking about in this regard.
And if you're going to grow up to be a legitimate Birdman imitator, like our young friend down in Miami, you're going to have to start young. Kudos to this gentleman — whom TNT's cameras caught during Tuesday's game between the Golden State Warriors and Andersen's former employers, the Denver Nuggets — for getting his young charge on the path to fan greatness early:
Sure, the Birdman mohawk combined with a Danilo Gallinari jersey seems like a mixed message, but A) it's probably not super easy to find baby-sized Birdman Nuggets jerseys these days, B) you'd have to buy a custom (and, strictly speaking, non-canonical) version if you want Denver's yellow alternate kit and C) this allows the lad to both look stylish and support a fallen star. Thoughtful stuff all around, if you ask me. (Nobody ever asks me.)
It's long been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Heat fans definitely have plenty of reason to celebrate the 34-year-old Birdman these days. Not only was he productive during Miami's second-half-of-the-season rampage, but he's been stellar in his first two postseason games, scoring 20 points, grabbing 13 rebounds (including eight on the offensive glass) and shooting 80 percent from the floor in 29 minutes of play, including 10 and 6 in 12 1/2 minutes in Tuesday's 98-86 win, which gave Miami a 2-0 lead in its best-of-seven series with Milwaukee.
His activity has given Milwaukee fits, as Bucks interim coach Jim Boylan told Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald:
"Chris has done this two games in a row now where he has come into the game and had an impact," [...] Jim Boylan said. "He plays with a lot of energy and was joined by Norris Cole [on Tuesday]. I wouldn't say it caught us by surprise, but both games there was a four-, five-, six-minute stretch where we let the game get away from us and [Andersen] was part of both runs."
Runs tend to happen when Andersen takes the court. The Heat allowed about three fewer points per 100 possessions, forced turnovers on a higher share of opponents' possessions and scored more points off turnovers when Birdman was on the floor during the regular season, and through two games, he's been a major difference-maker against Milwaukee — Miami is +22 in his 29 minutes, the fourth-best plus-minus on the team behind Ray Allen, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
To hear Andersen tell it, his X-factor status derives less from anything he's doing than from the energy the crowd generates when he checks in, according to Navarro:
"We've got to have our fans behind us, man," Andersen said.
"When they get this place roaring, I mean it sends shockwaves through you. That's just the electricity they're sending through us — and we answer to [it]."
And they, in turn, answer to the Birdman, in a variety of colorful ways.
For more on Denver's "Baby Birdman," plus Shaq repeating phrases and not knowing what a communion suit is, please enjoy this: