IN FIVE NBA seasons Chris Andersen carved out a reputation as a hard-nosed defender and earned the nickname Birdman for his aerial acrobatics. But two years ago Andersen, a 6'10", 230-pound hyperkinetic forward for the Hornets, gained notoriety for a less welcome reason. He became the first player in seven years to be suspended by the NBA for testing positive for what the league classifies as "drugs of abuse"—a list of substances that includes amphetamines, cocaine, opiates and PCP (but not marijuana). The drugs fall under the umbrella of the league's one-strike-and-you're-out policy.
Since the ban Andersen, 29, has worked hard to put his life back together. "You tend to grow up a lot in a situation like that over the past two years," Andersen said. He paid $50,000 to get into a 30-day rehabilitation program in Malibu, Calif. He got involved in charity and community-service work in Denver, where he played his first three seasons. Unable to play overseas (FIBA, basketball's international governing body, respects NBA suspensions), Andersen worked out on his own in Denver, doing drills and lifting weights for up to six hours a day. "Sometimes I was doing three-a-days," he said. During the off-season he played in pickup games in Las Vegas with Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups and Jermaine O'Neal.
Andersen applied for reinstatement shortly after he became eligible, in January. On March 5, satisfied that Andersen was clean, the NBA cleared him to return. The Hornets—who voided Andersen's four-year, $14 million contract after his suspension but had remained in contact with him through his agent—signed him to a prorated one-year, $3.5 million contract. The team plans to use Andersen, who has career averages of 5.1 points and 4.8 rebounds, as a backup to power forward David West and center Tyson Chandler. "He still has great size and athletic ability," says G.M. Jeff Bower. "Why wouldn't we want a guy like that?"
Under the terms of his reinstatement Andersen will be subject to frequent random drug testing. "This was not a controversial decision," says Bower. "We really believe he can help our team."
March 16, 2008
93 Shots stopped by Panthers goalie Craig Anderson in consecutive 1--0 wins over the Islanders and the Bruins, an NHL record for saves in back-to-back shutouts.
0 NHL teams that had ever won consecutive 1--0 games, both on the road, before Anderson's record performance.
10 World Cup downhill events Lindsey Vonn (SI, March 10) has won in her career, the most by a U.S. skier; her record-breaking title came last Saturday in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.
1 Sprint Cup wins for Toyota after Kyle Busch's win at Atlanta on Sunday.
54 Years since a foreign carmaker last won a NASCAR race; Al Keller drove a Jaguar to victory in 1954 in Linden, N.J.
Remembrance Of Wings Past
LAST WEEK golfer Tripp Isenhour came under fire when it was revealed he had killed a hawk in December while filming an instructional video. The bird was squawking, so Isenhour began hitting balls at it in what he says was an attempt to scare it away. Instead one of his shots struck the hawk, and Isenhour was charged last week with two misdemeanors—cruelty to animals and killing a migratory bird. But then we already knew that sports venues aren't always safe havens for our avian allies.
June 2007 In a charity tournament in Iowa, Rob Lowe (left) kills a goldfinch—the state bird—with a shot from a nine-iron. "Unbelievable," the actor says. "When killing state birds, I almost always use a wood."
December 2004 A ball off the bat of Australian cricket star Justin Langer fells not one, but two seagulls in a match against New Zealand. Afterward, Langer says—what else?—"Unfortunately it's the first time I have killed two birds with one stone."
January 2002 At the Australian Open a bird chases a moth into the path of a groundstroke hit by France's Michael Llodra. Says Llodra, "I hit the ball, and I kill the bird. But, you know, it's like this: I can do nothing about that.... At least I saved the moth."
June 2001 Tom Kite, trailing by one stroke in the Fleet-Boston Classic, hits a tee shot that strikes a purple martin and lands in a pond. Kite makes a double bogey and loses. "I just came up a couple of feathers short," he says.
March 2001 A dove in Arizona meets an unpeaceful end when it flies into a Randy Johnson pitch. "It's crazy," Diamondbacks catcher Rod Barajas says. "There's still feathers down there."
August 1983 Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield (right) is arrested in Toronto after a tossing a ball that accidentally hits—and kills—a seagull. (The charges were dropped.) Says manager Billy Martin, "That's the first time he's hit the cutoff man all year."