Fan favorite Anderson quickly embraces New Orleans

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Check Ryan Anderson’s Twitter updates at just about any time of day – but especially during meal time – and the chances are fairly good you’ll find out which local restaurant the 6-foot-10 forward has decided to visit. As a self-described “food connoisseur,” that makes world-famous New Orleans cuisine a perfect fit for the fifth-year NBA veteran, who spent his first four pro seasons in Orlando.

“The food is definitely my favorite aspect of New Orleans so far,” a smiling Anderson said. “I love it. I’ve been to so many great restaurants, like Jacques-Imo’s, Drago’s and some amazing places. I actually haven’t even touched a small percentage of the places here that I want to try. So I’m excited to keep trying more places and figure out my favorite one.”

After steadily becoming a greater contributor for Orlando and capturing the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2011-12, Anderson never expected to leave the Magic, but his free-agent status this summer led to a trade to the Hornets.

In one gauge of the 24-year-old’s popularity in Central Florida, after hearing of the fan favorite’s departure, numerous Magic supporters posted well wishes to Anderson on the Hornets’ social-media outlets – somewhat rare for a team’s former player.

“That’s cool to hear,” Anderson said. “It’s really great to hear that kind of feedback. Those are always positive things I want to leave somewhere with. It really is hard going from one city to another. I loved the people of Orlando. I had a great relationship with the people there on the basketball side, as well as the people of the city. It was an amazing experience. Now I’m going to make New Orleans an amazing city for me. I’m going to love it here. I really do enjoy New Orleans, and I think it’s because I’ve tried to experience the great food and the people and the atmosphere. People are great here.”

Anderson, who was once called “one of the five nicest people I’ve ever met,” by an OrlandoMagic.com writer, has also endeared himself to basketball fans with his popular Twitter account. Although his total of 18,000-plus followers is not an overwhelming figure by NBA player standards, his tweets are relentlessly positive, with a propensity to use exclamation points (for instance, one Sept. 30 update: “Love this radio station 89.1 in New Orleans!!”).

“I don’t have a crazy amount of followers, but I think it’s a great way to show people who I really am outside of basketball,” said Anderson, whose girlfriend – model and reality TV star Gia Allemand – has surpassed 50,000 followers. “I do want to express my faith on Twitter. I do want to talk about my interests in other things besides basketball. I’ll very rarely tweet about basketball.”

“I think the biggest thing is to just be yourself. I’m not trying to be anything different. If someone doesn’t want to follow me because of my faith or my love for food, or because I’m annoying,” Anderson continues, grinning, “then that’s OK. I’ve just honestly tried to be myself, and I will play hard on the court. I’m not trying to do anything special.”