Andre Ingram’s story caught the attention of many, including one former Laker on Tuesday night, who unwittingly shared time in the team’s facility with him.
Kobe Bryant didn’t see the game, but when he saw Ingram’s highlights later, he was hooked.
“I was able to catch the highlights, but what a story huh?” Bryant told The Times. “That’s unbelievable. It’s a testament to his commitment, to his unwavering drive to realize his dream. And then to get there, to get that opportunity, to not shy away from the moment, that’s a wonderful story.”
Bryant and Ingram crossed paths during Ingram’s time with the D-Fenders, which is what the South Bay Lakers were called until this season. But Bryant never much noticed the minor league lifer. He was too focused on his own goals.
That was the norm for Ingram until Tuesday. He toiled, unknown, in the NBA’s developmental league for 10 years, playing 384 games in that league before getting a shot in an NBA game.
It’s a testament to his commitment, to his unwavering drive to realize his dream.
Ingram scored 19 points for the Lakers, making four three-pointers and keeping them competitive against the West-leading Rockets.
He impressed Chris Paul.
“We actually checked into the game at the same time at one point and I told him I heard about his story and that grind is unbelievable,” Paul said. “I told him much respect, 10 years grinding in the G League, and to finally get an opportunity and to play like that, that is pretty special.”
And James Harden.
“He came out here with a confidence, shot the ball well, played well, got an opportunity finally after he worked extremely hard and definitely took advantage of it,” said Harden, who didn’t know anything about Ingram heading into Tuesday’s game.
And Bryant couldn’t help but appreciate what Ingram accomplished.
Channing Frye wasn’t sure he was allowed to answer a question about if LeBron James would like to play for Lakers coach Luke Walton — the Lakers have had enough trouble with tampering this year.
But he did offer this, more generalized pitch.
“I think any superstar would like to play for Luke,” said Frye, who was a college teammate of Walton’s. “I think he’s a player’s coach. I think when you talk about the continuity between your president, owner, GM, a lot of guys are looking for that. I think they’re looking for a culture. I think they’re looking for a guy who’s intense and wants to win and wants to win now.”
Frye enjoyed what he learned about being a Laker this season since being traded to the team on Feb. 8.
“There’s just a sense of style, there’s a sense of pride when you put this Lakers uniform on that I kind of used to not like,” Frye said. “But it’s growing on me.”
The Lakers began holding exit interviews early for certain veteran players. Before the final game of the season, general manager Rob Pelinka and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson met with Luol Deng, Frye and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Frye and Caldwell-Pope conducted season-ending interviews with reporters before Wednesday’s game against the Clippers. Deng, who did not play in the season’s final 81 games, declined.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli