Miami Heat

Birdman continuing basketball career 'on my own terms.' Next up: A return to Miami

Miami Heat power forward Chris Andersen (11) gets the crowd to cheer against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2013 in Miami.
Miami Heat power forward Chris Andersen (11) gets the crowd to cheer against the San Antonio Spurs during the first half in Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 2013 in Miami. AP

When Chris “Birdman” Andersen looks back at his time with the Miami Heat, one memory readily pops to the forefront.

“I’m pretty sure we had this big gold trophy at one point,” Andersen said, reflecting on the 2013 NBA championship the Heat won during his first season in Miami.

Fans remember him for his drive to win and his unabashed persona that perfectly mirrored his tattooed-covered, Mohawk-bearing exterior.

And while Andersen has mellowed some over time, his nonstop effort when it comes to basketball is still on display at age 40.

Andersen is still chasing basketball championships, just not in the NBA. For now, he’s enjoying his time in the Big3 basketball league, the touring half-court league filled with hosts of former big-name NBA players such as Amar’e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Nate Robinson.

And that journey will bring Andersen and the league to the AmericanAirlines Arena on Friday night, giving him a chance to soak up the Miami atmosphere as a player one more time.

“He’s returning to his nest,” Big3 co-founder Ice Cube said.

He played a pretty big role during his two-and-a-half years with the Heat.

None more telling than when he joined the team in the midst of its title run in the 2012-13 season. After signing on Jan. 20, 2013, Andersen played in 42 games off the bench, averaging 4.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while making 57.7 percent of his shots.

And then came the playoffs, when he shot a blistering 80.7 percent from the field over 20 games. Included in that was a six-game run in which he made all 17 of his shots.

But that’s just one cross section of his 15-year NBA career.

“There are so many memories,” Andersen said.

Which is why the ending was so hard.

Andersen’s NBA career came to an abrupt halt in December 2016 when he tore the ACL in his right knee while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After spending a year away from the league recovering, he found himself with no potential suitors, no options for making it back.

Andersen was down, but don’t count him out just yet.

Birdman plans to take flight again. Whether that means a chance in the NBA or in a league overseas is to be determined.

“I want to go out on my terms,” he said.

His first step to do so is coming in the Big3 league. Andersen said he approached them ahead of the season. The 10-week slate — with one game per week against players who have gone through the motions of the NBA — provides him and others the chance to show scouts and fans alike that they still have what it takes to play some basketball.

And while it’s a 3-on-3 league, Andersen said it would be naive for outsiders to underestimate the intensity that takes place on the court every Friday.

“It’s a great platform for guys trying to get back to the league or trying to get overseas,” he said. “The opportunities are endless.”

Those opportunities brought him home, too, even if just for one night.

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