You knew it was love between the Mile High City and Chris Andersen when people began popping up at Halloween parties or costume contests or were trick-or-treating dressed as the Birdman. Hair moussed-up into a Mohawk. Fake tattoos plastered on every free piece of skin.
Because, almost being him had to be as good as being him, right?
Perhaps. But being Chris Andersen was really, really good. He took the Nuggets by storm by just being him. Outside of Dikembe Mutombo and Marcus Camby, Andersen was arguably the most famous shot-blocker in the franchise’s history. His 624 blocks in seven seasons with the Nuggets is tied for fourth with Alex English on the team’s all-time list. His 1.7 average per game in his time with the Nuggets ranks eighth on the team’s all-time list.
The Nuggets originally signed Birdman, then a skinny 6-foot-10 power forward, out of Blinn College as an undrafted free agent in 2001. His athleticism stood out. He spent three seasons with the Nuggets before moving on to New Orleans. But it was his second stint with the team that his athleticism really shined. After a couple of seasons in New Orleans, Andersen returned to the Nuggets in 2008. And he made his presence immediately felt.
Andersen averaged 2.5 swats that season – in just 20.6 minutes per game. Per 36, that was a ridiculous 4.3 blocks per game, and it gave everyone a clear look at just how valuable a reserve Andersen was. His contributions in rim protection and on the boards were critical to the Nuggets advancing to the Western Conference Finals that year.
His success off the bench enabled his personality to shine. He flapped his arms after dunks and blocks. He played with mounds of energy. The tattoos became more plentiful and more colorful. He was an outside-the-box personality in a sport that confines its players inside the four lines of a 94-foot court. Andersen quickly became a fan favorite, none the least of which was because he loved them just as much.
Andersen led the Nuggets in single season blocks twice. He was also a high percentage shooter in the paint, catching lobs, cleaning up missed attempts, and running the court like a gazelle on fast breaks to finish with thunderous dunks.
In 2017, Andersen finished his 15th season in the NBA, not with the Nuggets but still creating fans wherever he goes. Still, it is the thrills that he authored with the Nuggets that have endeared him to this city forever.