The world of professional sports can be an unforgiving one, focused on the destination rather than the journey. Someone wins, someone loses, and we all pass judgment based on those cold results. Despite this, every once in a while, something happens that reminds us all that the sports world can be so much more.
Tuesday night we saw once such event when Andre Ingram suited up for the Los Angeles Lakers. By now you know the story.
After 10 years of toiling away in the G League (and D-League), honing his sniper-like shot, Ingram went into his exit interview with the South Bay Lakers only to learn that his season wasn’t over.
Instead, the 32-year-old was being called up to the NBA for the first time and would suit up for the Lakers for the final two games of the season. A decade of perseverance and hard work finally paid off.
He’s considerably older than most rookies, but Ingram’s call-up, as heartwarming as it is, was far from a charity case. The Lakers are currently ranked 29th in the league in 3-point percentage yet are 15th in attempts, which means that they could sorely use a player like Ingram, who has hit 46 percent of his threes over the course of his career.
The team will explore more permanent ways to add shooting to their roster in the summer, but for now, Ingram provides an immediate boost.
Still, the feel-good narrative was inescapable as Ingram took the court against the Houston Rockets for his first game as an NBA player. Simply making it that far, putting on the jersey and stepping onto the Staples Center floor, would have to be considered an impressive accomplishment.
Then Ingram made one shot. Then another. And another. He wasn’t content with just getting there, he was out to make a statement.
The crowd got behind him and the 6’3” guard put on a show, eventually ending the night with 19 points, three rebounds, and three blocks while shooting 6-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-5 from deep, making franchise history.
The crowd cheered for him every time he touched the ball and went into a frenzy whenever he calmly drained another shot. The fact that Ingram was wearing a Lakers jersey certainly helped the fans get behind him but this was more than Los Angeles partisanship. There is something relatable about his struggle to finally break through into the NBA.
With his salt-and-pepper hair and lunch pail mentality, Ingram, a mere mortal, went toe-to-toe with the gods of the NBA. He spent a decade climbing the NBA mountain, and after finally arriving at the summit, boldly announced his arrival to the heavens above.
He wasn’t a conqueror. There were times when Ingram looked outmatched, but there was no wavering on his part, no hint of faltering. When matched up with James Harden, he defended with determination, all the while knowing that his chances of success were slim. And why not?
After all, the odds of him even getting to the hardwood promised land were slim but persistence and hard work paid off. No reason not to take the same approach to defending the NBA’s bearded assassin.
The Lakers may have lost the game, but by the end, that didn’t really matter. Few will remember the result anyway because Ingram’s long-awaited debut was a moment that transcended winning and losing.
There are only so many opportunities that one has in a lifetime to truly seize the moment, to answer the call of opportunity and accept the challenge. Most will never get a chance to play professional sports, but Ingram’s story of perseverance is one that is relatable and resonates with us all.
Los Angeles has long been a town mesmerized by stars, with names like Kobe Bryant to Magic Johnson, David Beckham to now Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and so many in between. Their superhuman abilities made it nearly impossible to look away.
On this night, however, it was the everyman who stepped into the spotlight and stole the show.
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