At least for one night, Brandon Ingram wasn’t the star Ingram draining shots and blowing up Twitter feeds for the Los Angeles Lakers. In the Lakers’ 105-99 loss to the Houston Rockets on the penultimate day of the NBA regular season, I don’t think he minded too much.
While Brandon — a 20-year-old centerpiece for the Lakers’ bright future — was recovering from injury, a 32-year-old with an identical last name who many had never heard of was the talk of the basketball world.
On Monday morning, seasoned G-League veteran Andre Ingram arrived at his exit interview with the South Bay Lakers, the Lakers’ developmental team.
Here’s the catch: most G-League exit interviews don’t feature Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ president and general manager, respectively, along with a camera crew. Not to mention that Ingram’s personal interview was mysteriously pushed up a day earlier than usual.
That’s when the magic — no pun intended — began. After a decade bouncing around the NBA’s minor league system, Ingram was offered the chance to sign through the rest of the season.
So what do you do when you finally get your shot? You take it.
The next day, Ingram was sharing a locker room with the likes of Brook Lopez and Julius Randle before stepping onto the same court as Chris Paul and James Harden.
There’s good reason for the Lakers’ organization to love Ingram and his devotion to both basketball and his family. As a former student-athlete at American University from 2003 to 2007, Ingram majored in physics and has used that knowledge to tutor math as a side job to his basketball career. To date, Ingram has played the second most games in G-League history.
And under the same spotlight where Laker legend Kobe Bryant used to drop 30 points on a nightly basis, Ingram made his long-awaited NBA debut in style.
With no fewer than 384 career G-League games under his belt, the mathematician recorded 19 points off the bench while hitting four three-pointers, showcasing the stroke that holds the G-League’s all-time record in threes made.
Did I mention that he drew “MVP” chants? Who’s the new Ingram in town?
Sure, the Lakers lost the game, and the Rockets continued to cement their No. 1 label. But Ingram, his family and the fans who got to experience Tuesday with him are the real winners.
The end of the regular season tends to have a flair for these extraordinary moments. In a game with zero impact on postseason or lottery implications, it truly is special when teams go out of their way to make meaningless games the most special days of one’s life.
We’ve seen this before, such as when the Miami Marlins gifted Adam Greenberg, whose career was derailed on the very first pitch he saw on the MLB stage, an at-bat during the final week of the 2012 regular season.
Unlike Ingram, Greenberg had seen action at the highest level prior to Miami’s gesture, but the effect still hits home — reinforcing a dream and a moment well-deserved.
While Ingram earned the spotlight with his impactful character and 29 minutes of showtime Tuesday evening, credit is due where it’s due.
Shoutout to Johnson, Pelinka and the entire Lakers organization, including the players themselves for reminding us what sports is all about. For a city that tends to give far too much attention to LaVar Ball’s “Big Baller butter,” I’m thrilled to see Los Angeles hit this one out of the park.
Damn it, sports. You’ve got me again. Cheers to you.