By Matt Citak
The NBA has reached the final week of another regular season, and each of the league’s 30 teams has one of two mentalities. Playoff teams are preparing themselves for postseason play, while lottery teams are getting ready for the long offseason.
For players that play for teams in the bottom half of the standings, the final few games often don’t hold much significance. The playoff hunt is over, and within the next few days, they’ll be clearing out their lockers.
The Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the postseason weeks ago, but Tuesday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets was anything but insignificant.
For one man, it was a dream come true.
Andre Ingram was drafted into the G League on November 1, 2007. He spent the next 10 years playing in the NBA’s development league, logging time with the Utah Flash, Los Angeles D-Fenders, Perth Wildcats, and South Bay Lakers.
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Throughout his time in the G League, Ingram refused to give up on his dream of one day making the NBA. The 6-foot-3 guard kept his head held high and put in the work each and every day. Ingram’s effort led to him setting the all-time G League record for most three-pointers made, while also ranking second all time in games played. Off the court, Ingram tutored young students in math for years just to keep his NBA dream alive
On April 9, all of his hard work finally paid off when the Lakers signed the 32-year-old for the team’s final two games.
If this were where the narrative ended, it would already make for a feel-good story. But what Ingram accomplished during Los Angeles’s loss Tuesday night was nothing short of amazing.
Before Ingram even stepped onto the court, everyone inside the Staples Center understood that this was an incredibly special moment. As Ingram was checking into the game, Rockets star Chris Paul walked over from Houston’s bench to pay his respects to the rookie.
When was the last time you saw a player walk over to greet and congratulate an opponent before they checked into their first game?
But what Ingram did once on the court truly put the icing on the cake.
The 32-year-old made his first four shots in front of the home crowd, including three from behind the three-point line. Ingram finished the game with 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including 4-of-5 from deep, and 3 blocks. After each shot made, the Staples Center crowd would serenade him with “MVP” chants, all while the league’s likely actual MVP, James Harden, watched from the opposing bench.
While it makes for an amazing story, Ingram’s performance will go down as one of the strongest Lakers’ debuts in team history. His 19 points were the most by a Laker in his first career game since 1993, when Nick Van Exel scored 23. In fact, only Van Exel, Magic Johnson (26 points in 1979) and Jerry West (20 points in 1960) had more productive debuts with the storied franchise.
But Ingram’s success on Tuesday night goes beyond the Lakers. For players making their NBA debut after the All-Star break, his 19 points were the most in over 50 years, second only to Danny Finn’s 28 points in 1953.
Following his magical performance, several players took to social media to congratulate Ingram, including Isaiah Thomas, Jeremy Lin, Jarrett Jack, Kyle O’Quinn, and even Kobe Bryant. No matter what team you play or cheer for, just about everyone across the country was pulling for Ingram on Tuesday.
Andre Ingram is a true inspiration for anyone chasing their lifelong dream, showing us that hard work and determination, can make almost anything is possible.
Now let’s see what he can do as an encore in Los Angeles’s season finale on Wednesday.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.