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TNT Proves Its Worth Once More

Score another point for TNT's best-in-basketball studio show.

Of course, most of the country may need someone to have posted a YouTube video of Thursday night's "Inside the NBA," since the show peaked somewhere around half past one in the morning.

Why TNT chose to run such a great segment at such a late hour, we may never know.  But that they did it at all is fantastic.

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David Aldridge sat down with recently reinstated Chris Andersen, also known as the Birdman.  Once known best for missing approximately a billion straight dunks in the 2005 dunk contest, Andersen is recognized these days for his just-ended two-year suspension for violating the league's drug policy.

Andersen's story goes a lot deeper, however, than that of the pampered ball player who felt like chasing a few thrills.  In the interview with Aldridge, he speaks candidly about his troubled childhood, the manner in which he turned to alcohol and drugs to evade the pressures of life, the ban from the league and the work he has put in to change some deeply ingrained habits.  Andersen's story doesn't excuse his behavior, but it certainly demonstrates him to be of far greater depth of character than many fans around the league knew him to be.

The Aldridge interview was followed by a serious round-table discussion on set between Ernie Johnson, Magic Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley surrounding both Andersen's past and future.  They talked about Andersen's journey, and the impact of his return both on himself and on the Hornets.  Ultimately, I can't do the feature justice in attempting to recap it here.  But I can tell you that the group -- maligned by its few detractors only for not always being serious enough -- spoke with sincerity and understanding both about Andersen's situation and how it might affect his team as they prep for the playoffs.

I thought Chris Andersen was a joke for a long time.  Thanks to TNT, I don't anymore.

Here's hoping there were some more folks around the country awake at late hours last night as well.  Because the Birdman's story is one worth hearing.