Long live the Beez

Posted: May 16, 2013 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Birdman did not look like this during his time in Fargo.

The Birdman did not look like this during his time in Fargo.

The Fargo-Moorhead Beez live on in the NBA Playoffs. Don’t pretend like you didn’t know that.

I mean, it’s common knowledge that the franchise jumpstarted the pro careers of current Miami Heat forward Chris Andersen and San Antonio Spurs assistant Ime Udoka. In fact, they played for the Beez in the same season: 2000-01.

The team was in the International Basketball Association at the time, a league below the Continental Basketball Association. Yes, there was such a thing. Among the better IBA stories that I can remember: A player running off the court and out of the gym in an attempt to avoid arrest and a franchise relocation from America to Canada while the team was on a road trip.

How do I know all this useful information? Because the Beez were my first beat as a college kid at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. And I enjoyed the bejesus out of their antics until they went under in 2002 – just one year after serving as the low-paying home to two future (and relatively longtime) NBA players.

Long live the F-M Beez.

Long live the F-M Beez.

I wouldn’t have predicted either journey. I have shoddy memories of both.

I’m pretty sure Udoka was brought in during the season, and I assumed based on his name that he was of foreign descent – maybe even a recent transplant. Not exactly. Born in Portland, it turns out, although his father is from Nigeria.

He was a solid player in the IBA – steady and unremarkable much like he was during his days playing in the NBA. He was the rare and inexplicable guy that produces at the same rate at every level. (Sort of like Greg Stiemsma). Udoka also seemed quiet and tough. In hindsight, maybe he was gritting his teeth, wondering how he wound up in Fargo.

Embarrassingly, the thing that stood out the most about him was a dark mark on one of his arms. I wondered if it was a scar or a birthmark – maybe a patch of eczema like I have.

Anyway, Wikipedia reports that Udoka broke into the NBA in 2004 and bounced around until 2011. Last year, he was hired as an assistant by the Spurs and coach Greg Popovich. That probably means that Popovich doesn’t hate him, which is high praise in the hoops world. Also, he has a child with actress Nia Long, best known as the object of Ice Cube’s affection in “Friday.” (And, presumably, “Next Friday” and “The Friday After That,” if those movies indeed exist.)

Andersen has had an even more eventful decade, including being banned from the NBA for drug use. That had to be a heck of a thing to deal with: Working your way up from the IBA only to get the boot from your dream job.

But like Udoka, he’s been something of a mainstay in the league, grabbing attention for his crazy hair and virtual suit of tattoos. Honestly, I’m not sure if he had any ink when he arrived in Fargo, coached at the time by the late Lorenzo Charles. (Yes, the Lorenzo Charles of Jim Valvano fame. And, yes, I need to write something longer than a blog post about all of this.)

Mostly, Andersen was a skinny pogostick added midseason, apparently from a junior college. He stood out more than Udoka and for non-cosmetic reasons – the dude could fly, but mostly took one-way trips. That is, he seemed to get unusually winded after just a few trips up the floor. This being the IBA, I figured he was a smoker (of some sort) rather than an asthmatic.

I can’t remember when or why he left, but he made enough of an impression in his short stint that I’ve tracked the duration of his career – to the then-fledgling D-League, to Denver and to exile and back. Basketball-reference.com says Andersen has made nearly $20 million in his NBA career. A good chunk of that probably went into the colored, scarf-like tattoo around his neck, but still.

The whole thing doesn’t seem real: Did two guys who are helping NBA playoff teams really spend part of a largely forgettable season more than a decade ago in frozen Fargo with a team that would soon be defunct? Apparently.

I wonder if they kept any of their old Beez gear, if only as a reminder of where they had to go to get where they are.

  1. bisonation says:

    Coach rory white loved the old broadway, and his players loved it even more. We always saw them down there. I remember birdman & the other white guy (yea there was only 2) chillin on detroit lakes beach acting like they were ag daytona beach haha.

    Rory was a great guy ended up coaching in bismarck last few years actually

  2. When I lived in Fargo during the mid-90s, a couple of Beez players lived in the aparment across the hall. I don’t remember their names, all I remember is that they smoked a ton of weed. Like, hay bales of weed. The whole building smelled like weed. This is my only memory of the Fargo-Moorhead Beez.

  3. Scott Swanson says:

    My senior year at MSUM I was offered a job to help the promotions team with the Beez. I borrowed a crazy wig and some aviator sunglasses and pretty much just ran around shooting the T-shirt gun. Good times. I ended up getting paid with food coupons 🙂

  4. highdefhusband says:

    Who was the 7’6″ guy they brought in? I remember shooting video at a Thanksgiving brunch that the Beez were working and he said he was going to walk away with my wireless mic. He asked how much I thought he’d get for it at a pawn shop. Keep it classy, Beez, keep it classy.

  5. […] The NBA playoffs were a showcase for…the old Fargo-Moorhead Beez? Terry spent time covering the occasionally bizarre team earlier in the decade and wrote about the sq…, all while Chris Andersen was winning an NBA […]

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