Despite Los Angeles Lakers losing 105-99 to the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on Tuesday, there was another storyline that was bigger than the game itself. A story so big, TNT’s Ernie Johnson said they’re “good for the soul.”
At the relatively mature age of 32-years-old, Andre Ingram played in his NBA debut after being signed by the LA Lakers for the last two games of the season. His journey to this moment has been utterly remarkable and is the ultimate example of perseverance and never quit attitude.
Here’s Andre getting the news he would finally get the chance he’d always dreamed of:
Ingram spent more than 10 years and played some 384 in the G-League, grafting away and honing his trade in front of a handful of loyal fans. While this was tough going for a player with so much natural talent, he was clearly up to the task when his number was called.
The rookie scored 19 points and his sterling performance lit up the crowd – check out the highlight reel, which includes burying his very first shot:
His magical performance even caught the attention of NBA legend, Kobe Bryant:
LOVE IT https://t.co/H80FOjRuhm
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 11, 2018
“A lot of people that try and live the basketball dream probably would have given in, with the amount of years he has been trying,” said Lakers head coach Luke Walton, as reported by the BBC. “You do not make lot of money in the minor league system, playing crazy schedules, in small towns, constantly waiting for others to think you are good enough. That can get mentally tough.”
“It shows how mentally strong he is, how much he believes in himself and how much he loves the game,” the coach added.
After the shock signing the part-time maths tutor, who also holds a degree in physics, went from playing in front of a couple of hundred fans to draining three-pointers at the 20,000-seater Staples Center in LA. Many other players praised Ingram for his fortitude and relentless desire to make it to the top.
“I told him much respect. Ten years grinding in the G League, finally getting an opportunity and to play like that – that’s pretty special,” said Rockets player Chris Paul.
The power of focus and persistence is real!! Congrats Andre Ingram on your NBA debut. Well deserved! pic.twitter.com/U1MY9F1LOI
— Chris Paul (@CP3) April 11, 2018
So what was it like to get the call-up to play?
“I was wondering at what point it really hit me,” Andre told NBA on TNT. “It just kept getting better. I didn’t really know how to feel!”
Ingram also recalled the moment he broke the news to his family.
“I don’t know what she said,” Andre said, referring to his wife. “All I heard was screaming,” he laughed.
“My mom was there. She was praising, praying like we do. It was really cool.”
Ain’t nothing but God my brother!!! Congrats to Andre Ingram!!! ????✍?
— Kyle O'Quinn (@Kyle_OQuinn) April 11, 2018
“I don’t think I could adequately describe what a quality human being Andre Ingram is, and has been, going back to when we were recruiting him when he was a high school kid in Richmond, Virginia.” said Jeff Jones, who coached Ingram at American and is now the head coach at Old Dominion, as reported by the New York Times. “He’s one of the most determined individuals that I’ve ever met.”
Coach Walton insisted this was no charity handout on the part of the Lakers. And Andre proved it – he can play!
? Andre Ingram let it fly in his NBA debut, finishing with 19 points on a 4-5 shooting clip from behind the arc. pic.twitter.com/rdRXUor667
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 11, 2018
“This was not just doing a nice thing,” Walton explained. “We were bringing him up because we thought he could help us, we got bodies down [injuries] and he can shoot the ball.
? "AC just asked me if it was 'everything you'd thought it'd be,' obviously this was much more…it was once in a lifetime. It was awesome" pic.twitter.com/4gxXNpWJks
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 11, 2018
“It was for us as much as for him and on national TV he showed the world what kind of shooter he is. For being in the bright lights he was pretty good tonight and it was fun to watch.”
Andre Ingram, crazy story, very inspiring! God is good
— Denzel Valentine (@denzelvalentine) April 11, 2018
Ingram was delighted with his performance. “I just felt some electricity out there. It was amazing,” he said. “The crowd, the lights — it was once in a lifetime.”
So, should this incredible night be chalked up as a perfect career-ender? Nope. Ingram says he is only just getting started. “In no way do I look at this as the end of something,” he said. “Quite the opposite.”