By Ryan Glasspiegel
June 11, 2013

birdmen Instagram :: @hoopmixtape

Pictures of eight-month old Lazaro "Baby Birdman" Pereira first surfaced in mid-May and immediately went viral because, duh. This past weekend, South Florida's NBC6 arranged for the tot to meet the colorful Heat big man to whom he was paying homage. While the orignal photo was reportedly Photoshopped, the little boy's "tattoos" are permanently drawn on a pair of tights.

But what if, you ask, the pre-toddler's parents had wanted to get actual ink for their offspring? In that case, Fox Sports Florida has a lead—on Saturday, the web site covered the story behind the real Birdman's tattoos and the artist who created them:

In the summer of 2009, Andersen had “Free Bird’’ tattooed across his neck in bright yellow lettering. He's a fan of that song by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and it had meaning to him when listening to it regularly during his suspension. He also said in 2009 that the tattoo had something to do with having just broken off an engagement ... When Andersen asked for the “Free Bird’’ tattoo, [his long-time Denver-based tattoo artist John] Slaughter said that’s the only time he’s really double checked to make sure he really knew what he was doing.

“I was like, 'Tattoo your neck. Yeah, right, you’re crazy,’ ’’ said Slaughter, 41, who is heavily tattooed himself. “With the ‘Free Bird’ one, as far as I was concerned, I was thinking of his career. But he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ’’

So Slaughter did it. He said it took three or four sessions and about 10 to 12 hours to complete the work.

Though Slaughter does Birdman's inkwork for free, he estimates that the "Free Bird" tattoo would cost ordinary customers "a couple thousand" dollars and that the Heat forward's sleeves would typically run $5,000-8,000. So if Baby Birdman's parents had opted for the real thing, it would have been a pretty pricey way to lose their son to Child Protective Services.

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