In a league full of freakishly tall dudes covered in tattoos, Chris “Birdman” Andersen still sticks out. Andersen earns his nickname every night, flying through the air to collect a nasty array of dunks for the Denver Nuggets. A 6´10´´ mix of energy, elbows, and ink, the nine-year NBA vet doesn’t just play like a rock star, he looks like one too. ¶ Fans love the Birdman’s sense of style as much as his game—the home crowd is always peppered with kids rocking mohawk wigs in tribute to his signature game-time ’do. It’s all pretty lofty stuff considering Andersen’s long and winding road to the NBA, which included trips to the NBA’s Development League and China, as well as a two-year suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. ¶ Off the court and out of the tattoo shop Andersen has gotten heavy into hunting. The self-proclaimed redneck unwinds by tracking down wild hogs with a crossbow and is now developing a reality TV show about his adventures in the woods. Andersen met up with INKED during the NBA lockout to discuss his extended off-season, bouncing from topic to topic almost as frantically as he flies around on the basketball court.
INKED: Are you getting bored during this lockout?
Chris Andersen: Hell yes. I work out on the court for about an hour. I lift weights at the house for another hour and a half. Then I go run around Red Rocks for about 45 minutes to an hour. Then I go get tatted up or shoot my bow or clean my house. I just keep myself busy so I don’t go out and do dumb stuff.
You’re also working on the creation of a reality TV show about hunting. Do you really think you can make hog hunting into must-see TV?
Hogs are fast, dude. I shot one out of a tree stand, and then on the way from the tree stand, like 100 yards in, I heard snorting. So I picked up my bow and looked and there were, like, 30 eyes looking back at us from the pitch black in the middle of the night. You have the light on them, and all you see is the green reflecting in their eyes and they’re just looking right at you. Hogs will charge you, especially a pack of hogs. So I aimed, got the yardage down with my range finder, saw it was 44 yards, found one and snuffed it. Shot right through it. It felt good, because it scared the rest of them away. They just hit the bayou and the swamp.
Like American Hoggers but with a tall dude wielding a crossbow.
It’s me and my boy Willie B. [a DJ on Denver’s 106.7 KBPI]. We want to do hunting, but also tons of crazy shit. As you can see, I don’t just look the part, I play the part—two celebrity rednecks that do some crazy country-boy bullshit. We want it to be over-the-top. The networks will have no choice but to say okay.
So when did you get your first tattoo?
Back in 2000, I had just gotten back from China and I wanted to get a tattoo. I did the piercing thing, but it just wasn’t my style, so I got out of that and jumped into tattoos. The first two tattoos I got were Chinese symbols on my left and right forearms, representing the good and the bad.
What was playing in China like?
China really toughened me up. When I played there, they could actually still smoke in the arena as you’re playing. Some of them didn’t even have heat. You’d have a cold sweat going, you could see your breath, then you look up at the ceiling and there’s a cloud of smoke. I saw this one guy just burn one down in three or four puffs, then just whip out another one and light it up right there. That definitely made it tougher as a player, playing in those conditions.
When you got back to the States, how did you decide where to go for your first tattoo?
I went to a shop in Bryan College Station [TX]. My mother actually was friends with the guy because they rode bikes together, so that’s where we went.
Now that you have collected a lot of tattoos, who’s your go-to artist?
I come up with the ideas, then I tell my guy, John Slaughter from Tribe Tattoo in Denver, “This is my idea, lay it on me.” He sometimes freehands it, like this one [lifts up his shirt to show a fresh outline of a topless woman on the left side of his torso]. That’s my angel. Just got it yesterday. It’s not like I walk up to a picture on a wall and tell him I want that. He just drew it without looking at a picture and right after that, he just inked it up.