For two years, Chris Andersen (a.k.a. the Birdman) was waiting for his opportunity to re-sign with an NBA franchise after getting suspended for violating the league's drug policy in 2006. Yesterday, he got his wish, inking a deal to return to the league with the New Orleans Hornets.
During his suspension, Andersen took solace in a completely different kind of inking, adding five new tattoos to his already tatted-up body: a skull with a colored crown on his left biceps; chains on both arms and his upper chest; homages to his home state of Texas on his right forearm; the words "Honky Tonk" on his stomach and wings under both arms.
"I had to do something to stay busy off the court," he said.
Andersen got all the new ink—as well as a touch up on an old tattoo on his right arm—compliments of his friend, tattoo artist John Slaughter at Tribe Tattoo in Denver, where Andersen joked that he was under the needle for "about a week."
The best part of all? The out of work Birdman got thousands of dollars worth of tattoos for free.
"That's my boy," he said explaining his deal with Slaughter. "He was about to get into a bar fight and I stopped it."
That, apparently, is the PG version of the story. Andersen wouldn't disclose the un-cut version. He did, however, admit to crying "like a little girl" when he got his wing tattoos.
"It hurt like a son of a bean mother fredo pie," he said. "I had to come back after a couple of months to finish it."
Despite all the flashy new artwork on his body, Andersen says he's turned over a new leaf for his second turn in the league. For one, he won't be throwing up his birdman sign the next time he gets a dunk.
"I'm not doing the hand gesture no more," he said. "It's business now. I'm out here to help these guys get further than where Charles Barkley predicted us to go."
Andersen still has his lighter side, though. When asked which tattoo he'd like to show off the most, he deadpanned "I don't show off anymore," then flashed a wry smile.
Andersen practiced with the Hornets today, but neither he nor coach Byron Scott set a timetable for when he'd get back into an NBA game. For now, he's just happy to be here. Seems the Birdman is definitely flying on a new set of wings.