Sports

32-Year-Old Lakers Player Puts Up Historic Night In Debut After Spending 10 Years In The Minors

by Robert Silverman

April 12, 2018
Los Angeles Lakers guard Andre Ingram passes the ball while under pressure from Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green. Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo.

The last few dwindling days of the NBA season normally provide the kind of entertainment only true purists and diehards can appreciate. Occasionally, a fringe player — the Ben Uzohs and Chris Copelands of the basketball universe — will put forth an eye-popping, if ultimately forgettable, stat line.

It’ll be a lot harder to forget Andre Ingram’s NBA debut.

After 10 years and 384 games spent toiling in the G League (plus a pit stop in Australia), just signing a contract for the remainder of the season with the Los Angeles Lakers would have represented the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for the 32-year-old-Ingram. But he did more than take up space on the bench: Ingram showed he belonged.

“Everyone was like, ‘Man, when you get it, just let it go,’” he told reporters after the game. The 6-3 guard and the G League’s all-time leader in three did just that, draining 6 of 8 shots — including four treys — in 29 minutes of action against the Houston Rockets, adding three blocks and a steal for good measure.  

The Rockets star guard Chris Paul got a gander at Ingram’s exploits and came away grinning. “I told him I heard about his story and that grind is unbelievable,” said Paul, per ESPN. “I told him ‘much respect.’ 10 years grinding in the G League, and to finally get an opportunity and to play like that, that is pretty special.”

It was special enough to get his name enshrined the Lakers’ record books, alongside a few all-time greats and beloved stars.

But for a meaningless game — the Rockets had already clinched the NBA’s best record and the Lakers’ pick will go to the Philadelphia 76ers or Boston Celtics, depending on how the draft lottery plays out — the crowd at the Staples Center ate up Ingram’s debut.

Chants of “M-V-P” rang throughout the arena.

Lakers center Brook Lopez was equally impressed, saying Ingram looked like “he belonged out there,” and adding, “That’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Just an inspirational story.”

Ingram graduated from American University in 2007 and went undrafted, earning a degree in physics. He’s put it to use from time to time, offering his services part-time as a math tutor when his G League salary didn’t cover all the bills. Though he contemplated richer offers from various European pro leagues over the years, he remained in the U.S., betting that it was worth sacrificing more than a few dollars.

But after amassing the longest career in G-League history — and moments where he’d contemplated quitting — he got the shock of his life during what he thought would be a normal exit interview with the South Bay Lakers. There, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and none other than Magic Johnson, president of basketball operations, entered the room to let Ingram know he’d finally made it.

Still, he managed to take in the enormity of the moment, even with his wife and two daughters, who’d trekked from his Virginia home to Los Angeles, in attendance. “It was excellent,” said Ingram. “Once we went out as a team for warm-ups, I just felt some electricity out there. It was amazing. The crowd, the lights — it was just once in a lifetime. It was awesome.”

According to head coach Luke Walton, Ingram’s presence on the roster wasn’t motivated by charity, or even to provide a sentimental coda to a Hollywood-scripted sports flick.

“We were bringing him up because we thought he could help us when we have bodies down, and he can shoot the ball. It was for us just as much as it was for him, and I think tonight he showed the basketball world what kind of shooter he is,” Walton said. “For being in the bright lights, he was pretty good tonight and it was a lot of fun to watch.”

It really was. For those that didn’t watch it live, here are the highlights. Take a look and see if you, like Ingram, can wipe the smile off your face:

Share image by Mark J. Terrill/AP Photo.

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