Chris Andersen, the illustrated man

Maybe that's why Erik Spoelstra lobbied so hard to bring him here. In the middle of a winning streak that turned into a losing streak that turned into a winning streak, Spoelstra smiled and said, "Energy. Motor. Momentum. Athleticism. He plays with the youth of somebody 10 years younger. This league will pay for motor. Why does he fit? How does he fit? His skill set we targeted. We liked him for years. We always thought he'd be a great fit because of that energy and because of his defensive disposition. When we got him in here, he was everything we hoped and more. He's a tough warrior. We're sure glad he's on our side."

Birdman also has the best field goal percentage in team history. But no one mentions that. It's as if even the Heat don't quite see him.

From one locker to the next, every quote from every teammate sounds the same. They know him. Or have at least decided who they think he is. Chris Bosh, again: "He brings that energy. He can catch one off the rim and get a big dunk -- I mean he does those things that get people out of their seats."

Counterintuitively, Andersen, who can never escape your notice, succeeds in part by setting aside his identity and his past, just like Ray Allen, two lockers over. "We're devoid of ego. We've been around long enough to understand where we fit in, and we have to find a way to fit in by adding whatever is missing. As veterans you do whatever you do to help the team win."

Andersen is more conventional than you think. He eats. He works out. He naps. On game nights he's one of the only players with his hand over his old-school heart for the anthem. He drives American cars, listens to American music, grills American beef. He is you, taller and with better hands and more energy. On the court he's who you'd be if you were intuitive and unstuck. He doesn't study the shot charts and dispersion graphs of opposing teams. "I just keep the opponent in front of me." He often comes in midway through the first period and stays through the middle of the second. Ten minutes. Same in the third and fourth. He averages 20 minutes a night, like clockwork. Even on the sideline, waiting, he's bouncing on his toes. He's ready. He works. Harder than ever, because this is what he has left. And because they depend on him like family. And maybe this time it will all turn out.

* * *

He walks out of another tent trailing another line of kids. Like his teammates, he wears a black Family Festival T-shirt. Unlike his teammates, he wears camo cargo shorts with his keys snapped to a belt loop on a locking carabiner. He pauses to be photographed with a vintage car; to be photographed with a python; to be photographed with another young family. Scowl. Sneer. Scowl. The kids steer him to the outdoor court where Pat Riley stands with his grandson and where Ray Allen is draining unlikely 3s with the help of some vocal 10-year-olds. Even here Birdman plays his game, hand checking and swatting blocks out of play. He is a monster. The kids howl with delight at the unfairness of it and at the scowl and the sneer and the wraparound sunglasses and the huge hands. At the ink. At the goaltending and the slap of his immense black sneakers on the ground. He hoists them one by one to throw down their miniature jams. He gives no instructions, offers no encouragement. "He's sweet," says one of the moms at the railing to her friend.

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