Af­ter 15 min­utes, a life­time of pur­pose

In­gram seeks to in­spire oth­ers af­ter brief NBA fame

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - BASEBALL - BY JERRY BREWER

An­dre In­gram walks into a Ge­orge­town res­tau­rant with his wife, Mar­ilee. He smiles. He is anony­mous again. He keeps smil­ing. He no longer wears his April fame, from when he ended the NBA sea­son as the ul­ti­mate un­der­dog fairy­tale. On this May af­ter­noon, he looks most com­fort­able in a T-shirt and track pants.

“Each day, the recog­ni­tion, it kind of goes down a lit­tle bit more, a lit­tle bit more,” In­gram says.

He is home now, where the An­dre In­gram Story is much more in­ti­mate. He isn’t merely the re­mark­able bas­ket­ball lifer who toiled in the NBA devel­op­men­tal league for 10 years be­fore get­ting a late-sea­son shot with the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers and turn­ing it into a mo­ment wor­thy of Hol­ly­wood. In Rich­mond, he’s a friend and fam­ily mem­ber who swells with pride when peo­ple tell him, “Man, we felt like it was us out there do­ing that.” And when he took a trip to D.C. last week, he dis­ap­peared into nos­tal­gia, think­ing back to how well Amer­i­can Univer­sity pre­pared him in hoops and life and rev­el­ing in re­dis­cov­er­ing the city.

“I al­ways look back at my time and Amer­i­can, and the only re­gret is that I didn’t see more of places like I’m do­ing now,” In­gram said. “Just trav­el­ing in D.C. today, these places were five min­utes from me my whole ca­reer, and I didn’t see none of them, you know? It was bas­ket­ball. It was school. It was bas­ket­ball. It was school. I’ll al­ways re­gret that part of it, but I’m thank­ful for what it pre­pared me for.”

It pre­pared him to get more from life than fleet­ing fame. So here is the 32-year-old In­gram, a month af­ter he scored 19 points against Hous­ton in his long-awaited NBA de­but, ready to talk about what’s next. And here is his un­re­mark­able an­swer: He doesn’t know. We may never see him make an­other 3-pointer on an NBA court, but he learned long ago not to de­fine vic­tory so nar­rowly.

What now? More of the same. More grind­ing. More fol­low­ing that feel­ing that he is on the right path. For In­gram, this has been a spir­i­tual jour­ney more than a dream with an ab­so­lute des­ti­na­tion in mind. He would like to stick in the NBA and fi­nally earn mil­lions. But he needs some­thing greater.

“What I hope peo­ple take from the story isn’t just that he keeps go­ing, keeps go­ing,” In­gram said. “It’s, well, what kept him go­ing? It’s not like you just go blindly for 10 years. You can be fooled, and you can be go­ing af­ter the wrong thing and keep go­ing af­ter it. So the story is not just about, ‘Keep go­ing.’ It’s about, ‘What are you go­ing for?’

“For me, this was a dream, of course, to play in the NBA, but it was also some­thing I was led to do. I was led to play bas­ket­ball. Like, I’m sup­posed to be play­ing bas­ket­ball. I know that. This road I’ve taken has shown me that. That’s what the ‘Keep go­ing’ is about with me. When those times come — no ‘if’ — when those times come where it’s not go­ing any­where, and you’re ready to do some­thing else, you’re ready to let go, I just be­lieve there will be some­thing to pull you back in. That’s how you know. Ev­ery time I got to that jump-off-the-cliff point, some­thing pulled me back in. That’s the part that gets gen­er­al­ized, and then peo­ple think, ‘Just keep go­ing, and dreams come true.’ No, that’s not it.”

In­gram has had many mo­ments when he thought about quit­ting. The most re­cent and pro­found came about 18 months ago. Tired of be­ing a devel­op­men­tal project, he left the NBA’s G League and signed a con­tract to play in Aus­tralia. He was go­ing to make good money. He joined a good or­ga­ni­za­tion. But he was so mis­er­able that he left af­ter two games.

“I had to go to the coaches and say, ‘Lis­ten this is not for me. I’m mis­er­able. I’m de­pressed,’” In­gram said. “It was hard to ex­plain. They were like, ‘Why are you leav­ing?’ I could only say, ‘My spirit’s wrong. There’s no peace in me.’ That was one of the hard­est things, man.”

In­gram had left for Aus­tralia say­ing, “Man, I’m just done with the G-League.” He had lost in the league fi­nals and played poorly in the de­cid­ing game. Af­ter eight years try­ing to get called up, In­gram didn’t know his pur­pose. Then he went to Aus­tralia, flopped and re­al­ized, “The place I was done with, the place that I hated then, I need it. It’s where I’m sup­posed to be.”

Fi­nally, af­ter an­other sea­son, af­ter play­ing 384 games and hop­ing for a call-up, he was in­vited to the big stage. He played the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers’ fi­nal two games, fol­low­ing that 19-point per­for­mance in Hous­ton with five points and six as­sists against the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers the next night. If In­gram had en­joyed his time in Aus­tralia, he would have been mak­ing a name for him­self Down Un­der and not re­ceiv­ing the NBA pro­mo­tion of his dreams. Maybe that’s why his spirit was wrong.

Cur­rently, In­gram is work­ing out, prepar­ing to au­di­tion again in the sum­mer league. The Lak­ers still own his rights; he is a re­stricted free agent. He’ll be com­pet­ing to earn an NBA con­tract this sum­mer. If he doesn’t, he is ex­pected to re­turn to the G League.

He signed with WME, and the agency will help him turn his story into a book and, pos­si­bly, a movie or tele­vi­sion pro­gram. In­gram con­tin­ues to work with his long­time busi­ness man­ager and former Amer­i­can team­mate, Romone Penny, of Pur­suit Sports Group. In­gram will visit Rich­mond in June as the fea­tured speaker at this year’s Scholar-Ath­lete ban­quet.

In­gram can ac­cept it if he ends up be­ing widely re­mem­bered as “that un­known guy who did an amaz­ing thing that one time.” But to him, his bas­ket­ball ca­reer has been more than that. He has lived his pas­sion. He hasn’t cheated the game; In­gram is lauded for his work ethic. Wher­ever he plays, he’s in the right place. He can feel it.

As the NBA play­offs move to­ward crown­ing a cham­pion, In­gram will be in the gym for sev­eral hours a day, still go­ing, still dream­ing, still trust­ing in the un­known. There is peace in him, even if the fame van­ishes.


High­land Springs grad An­dre In­gram, right, gained mo­men­tary fame when he made his NBA de­but in his 30s. But now that the spot­light has moved on, he wants peo­ple to be aware that he wasn’t blindly striv­ing — he was led through his jour­ney by faith.

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