Andre Ingram’s story inspired many, but for the 10-year NBA G League veteran, it made him appreciate how he got to where he is now.
This past season, the South Bay Lakers guard earned a Gatorade Call-Up to the Los Angeles Lakers, and in his NBA debut, scored 19 points (4-for-5 from 3-point range), while adding three rebounds, three blocks, an assist and a steal.
“It really was as cool as it sounds. You can’t make it up,” said 32-year old Ingram. “There’s something about a real-life occurrence like that, it does something to people. I’m just glad to be a part of it, from everything that everyone took from it.”
Ingram said people will still come up to him and explain how his night against the Rockets inspired them in their life or career.
“Young people might think it’s cool, older people might think to themselves, ‘hey maybe its time for me to keep at it,’” Ingram explained. “I’ve just heard from so many people, not just in sports, about how they just were so inspired in their own careers from my game. That’s such an excellent thing to be a part of because I had seen things in the past that kept me going.”
Ingram had grown up in Richmond, Virginia, with the mentality of working hard at everything he’s done. His childhood friends, Curtis Conyers and Sterling Young, both were blown away by the response after Ingram’s big night against the Rockets. They both said that it wasn’t a surprise to them when Andre took the NBA by storm that night in March.
“We knew what he was capable of as a basketball player early on, so seeing people realize the type of person he is, that was the best part,” said Young. “He’s selfless, and his work ethic is off the charts. Those are just invaluable characteristics in a person. It’s rare.”
Conyers echoed Young.
“It was long overdue, but I was glad the world got the chance to see his tenacity, his hard work, his dedication to his craft,” said Conyers. “Andre’s dream was to play professional basketball, but he treated the process like it was a 9-to-5, and accomplished that goal. It was the American dream story, anything is possible.”
Ingram said throughout his career, coaches and executives had been “going to bat” for him, looking for a call-up to the NBA. When it finally happened this season, Ingram was very thankful, but it was really the opposite. He had brought joy and leadership that cannot be replaced.
“Andre is the nicest guy I’ve ever met,” said teammate Alex Caruso. “He’s a great father, a great leader, and I’m so happy for him. He deserved it.”
“[Andre] is a great teammate and a great person. He was ready for the opportunity,” said South Bay coach Coby Karl. “It’s so fun to see that happen to good people, and he’s been a rock for us in South Bay, and in the G League for 10 years.”
Playing in the NBA G League for 10 years without a call-up takes dedication, but also came with some tough times, Ingram said.
But the moment when he earned the call-up, he thought back to the journey that he took to get here, and how “something kept pulling” Ingram back to chase his dream in times of doubt.
“That’s probably what’s not talked about enough in my story is those tough times,” said Ingram. “Everyone just knows that I stuck here for 10 years before my shot. But there were definitely times where I wanted to let go and do something else and chase another avenue. But when you’re meant to do something and supposed to do something and you’re diligent at it. Things will keep you in it, you just keep listening to the voice.
“Whenever you achieve something that is really big, you really appreciate the tougher moments,” Ingram explained. “You think more about the times when you were down and out. That’s what you think about, and when something like that happens, it’s all worth it.”
The Lakers organization went behind the scenes with Andre to his call-up, where they pretended it was a taped exit meeting with South Bay, surprising him and showing his emotions of earning the call to L.A.
“The way they set it up, too, that was special to me because I know all the people who fought for me to get there,” said Ingram.
Ingram played for 10 years in the NBA G League. He played with two different teams (Utah Flash – now Delaware Blue Coats – and South Bay Lakers), played in 418 total games, scored 4,202 points, hit a league-best 773 3-pointers and won the NBA G League 3-Point Contest twice (2010 and 2016).
His goal was always to play in the NBA, but he trusted the process that was taking place in the NBA G League.
“Andre came in every day and worked like he was on an NBA roster already,” said Caruso. “Evidence showed when he came in during his first game.”
During that first game, he came out and knocked down his first four shots (and three free throws), and looked to everyone like he had been perfectly prepared for the moment.
Ingram said the NBA G League did that preparation for him to shine on the big stage at the NBA.
“The G League is preparation. Everything about it, especially on the court, is just like the NBA. That’s why the transition didn’t overwhelm me,” said Ingram. “The G League’s purpose is to develop you for the NBA and I believe it’s done that so well. That’s why you see so many guys find their game, even former NBA players who come down and work their way back up.”
The 19 points, the four straight makes to start his NBA career – that was just bonus for Ingram. He just wanted to “run up and down the court” and be a part of the NBA.
“That feeling of being a part of the game and of the NBA. That’s what I was feeling,” said Ingram. “Like with that handshake with Chris Paul, talking with him and other guys, that was great. The atmosphere at Staples Center was awesome. I just wanted to know I’m really in the NBA and a part of this thing.”
Not only was Ingram a part of the NBA, but those around the league have been congratulating him and even thanking him for the inspiration since that one night in March.
By those around the league, he means the players that he had been looking up to for the past 10 years.
“The NBA is what I always wanted to be a part of. So seeing these players who I’ve seen play, and the fact that they know me is cool and funny to me,” said Ingram, with a laugh. “You’re where I want to be but you’re acknowledging me, that’s a special feeling to have.”
Now moving forward, at 32-years old, Ingram wants to keep this going. He said although he could retire on a high note, he wants to work for an NBA contract and keep his career alive.
He and his agent both feel confident about playing this season, and Ingram has moved past the emotions of earning a call-up, to the next step in his career.
“The full intention is to play this season. To play in the NBA and stay in the NBA,” said Ingram. “The Rockets game was huge, the call-up was huge, but for me I’m onto how I’m going to stay in the NBA moving next season. My focus is on what’s coming next. I have no intentions of slowing down.”