by Adam Figman | @afigman
SLAM: Tell us a little about your hometown.
Ryan Anderson: I grew up in a small town outside of Sacramento called El Dorado Hills. It was a great suburban area. Basketball was just something that I had in common with a lot of my friends from the very beginning. It’s really just a low-key town where I grew up, not a lot around. But I’m really close with my family, and I had great friends growing up.
SLAM: Did you come up a Kings fan?
RA: Most definitely a Kings fan. The Kings were the biggest thing to ever hit Sacramento.
SLAM: Was that during the Chris Webber era?
RA: Oh yeah, CWebb, Jason Williams. It’s funny; I’ve gotten the chance to play with JWill and Hedo Turkoglu and so many big-name guys that were on that team. It’s just fun to talk to them about the environment and talk about how they loved playing in Sacramento. Everybody, even if they didn’t know anything about basketball, was a fan of the Kings, just because it was such a big thing to happen to such a small city.
SLAM: How old were you when you first got into hoops?
RA: My grandma bought me this mini little basketball hoop when I was 3, and I was always playing on that. I started playing organized basketball with my friends around town when I was 8 years old—that’s the first time I ever played in a league.
SLAM: Do you come from a basketball-minded family?
RA: Gosh, no. No. I’m kind of a freak in my family—my dad’s 6-0, my mom’s 5-8, my sister’s 5-6. But my family really grew up in the arts, like music. Everybody had some kind of musical talent. I bounced around playing different instruments and stuff. And my dad loved nature. So I had a bunch of other things besides sports that I was interested in growing up, but just because I was tall, and I always had a love of basketball, I kind of did it on my own. My parents never forced me. I loved growing up like that.
SLAM: Who was the guy you watched and modeled your game after?
RA: As I progressed as a player and realized I could do more things than just be a big guy out there and do post moves, I really loved watching Dirk Nowitzki. I still really look up to his game and how he’s really transformed it. He’s created a different player in the NBA just because of that ability to stretch the floor.
SLAM: I read one year in high school you were just decent, and then the next year you were incredible. Was the transition really that quick?
RA: Well, my body changed a lot in high school. I was kind of a chubbier high school kid, and I didn’t really grow into my body until later on. I wasn’t the most athletic—I’m still not—but in my freshman and sophomore years in high school I grew from about 6-4 to 6-8. So after that year, I got a chance to play varsity, and I didn’t have a ton of confidence, because we had a good team. Then my junior year, I came on and grew to 6-10 and got the ball in my hands a little bit more. My junior year, when we won a state championship, that was sort of the first big thing to ever happen to me basketball-wise.
SLAM: Was going to Cal always the goal?
RA: I never really had a goal. You know, “I wanna make it to this place, or that place.” I kind of just played it along as it went, and I knew that I wanted to stay relatively close. UCLA was a school that I always loved, and I always wanted to go to UCLA. But it wasn’t like a goal of mine, [like], “If I don’t go to UCLA, I’m disappointed,” you know? The fact that I got a college scholarship from Cal, that was awesome for me. I had a coach in junior high that flat out, blatantly told me I would not play DI college basketball.
SLAM: How old were you when that happened?
RA: I was in junior high. I was probably in seventh grade.
SLAM: That’s a pretty harsh thing to say to a seventh grader.
RA: Real, real harsh. My mom was not the happiest about it [laughs]. She was a part of the conversation. Yeah, pretty tough thing to say to a junior higher, but I’ve always had doubters my whole career—people looking at me and thinking I can’t do something. I love proving people wrong.