(This article was written as an assignment for my Sports Journalism class)
Andre Ingram’s path in the NBA Development League has been the road less traveled.
Typically, the NBA D-League, the NBA’s official minor league, is not a stable, long-term gig. Players in the D-League only sign one-year contracts with the league compared to the multi-year deals that NBA players are able to sign with the individual teams. The D-League prepares players, coaches, officials, trainers, and front office staff for the NBA and acts as the NBA’s research and development laboratory, implying that things are constantly changing.
At 30 years old, Ingram has played with only two teams over the course of eight seasons. Ingram was drafted in the 2007 NBA D-League Draft by the Utah Flash with the 94th pick.
The number of teams is not what makes Ingram’s journey unique; it’s the number of years that he has played in the league without ever receiving a call up from the NBA or taking his career overseas.
Despite the typical instability of building a career in the minor league, Ingram has made the D-League his.
Ingram’s Previous Road
When he came out of American University in 2007, Ingram did not have a lot of buzz. Part of this is due to the fact that despite being a former Patriot League Rookie of the Year and earning other awards and forms of recognition from the Patriot League, he did not play at school that is known for producing future NBA players.
As a result, he went undrafted. He did not even receive that many overseas deals. This left Ingram with questions about the path his career might take.
“I thought the D-League was my best route,” Ingram said. “One, from a financial standpoint, I thought it would be the best way for me to get a deal overseas that would be worth going for. Two, loving basketball and loving the NBA period and [me] wanting a shot at that.”
In his rookie year with the Utah Flash, Ingram had a decent season. He played in all 50 games that season and shot 49.4% from the field and 44.8% from three.
Ingram’s production on the court was enough for Utah to sign him for a second season. During this sophomore season, his production increased significantly. His playing time was almost doubled, going from 14.9 minutes per game to 27.5 minutes per game in the 2008-2009 season; this helped his production in all other aspects of his game double as well.
Ingram’s second season gained him some attention from the NBA; the Utah Jazz took notice and offered him a spot on their Summer League team in 2009.
“Going into that third season was probably the most critical season because if you want to make an overseas push at all, that is around the time you want to do it,” he said.
After his stint with the Jazz’s Summer League team, Ingram had to make a decision regarding his road in the D-League.
He received a “really good” offer to play for a team in Australia. But, at the same time, the Jazz told him that there was a good chance that they would call him up during the upcoming season, meaning that he would have to go back and play for the Utah Flash one more time in order to give it a shot.
Ingram, in the end, turned down the overseas offer. “I chose to stay in the D-League and I don’t regret it,” he said.
However, even after a another great season in which Ingram shot 45.6% from the field and 40.3 from three in 34.0 minutes per game, Ingram still did not get called up to play in the NBA.
Ingram said that the possibility of a chance to play in the NBA is one of the things that drove him, not only then, but now too. “Not all guys do [get a chance] and so when I had a shot, I wanted to take it,” he said.
His love of basketball also has pushed him to keep trying to make it to the NBA.
“I love playing ball and so I kind of decided that I was going to go until the wheels fall off,” he said.
Ingram’s Current Road
Ingram’s current season has by far been his most impressive. So far, he’s played in 41 games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders and started 11 of them. He’s averaged 9.2 points on 48.0% shooting from the field and 48.9% from three in 24.5 minutes per game.
His shooting abilities even got him selected to participate in the D-League’s three-point contest at the 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto, Canada. He made headlines when he not only won the contest by hitting 39 of 50 attempts (78.0%) in both rounds, but scored 27 points in the final round.
For reference as to how impressive that actually is, Klay Thompson, a member of the 2015 Champion Golden State Warriors and one of the best shooters in the NBA, tied that score later that night in the final round of the NBA’s version of the contest to beat his backcourt mate, reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry, for the title.
As a result of his three-point contest victory and his performance on the court during the regular season, people have started to notice Ingram more. He’s had some contact with overseas teams about the possibility of playing as early as this summer once his current D-League season is over.
If this season has done anything, it has proven to Ingram that, at 30 years old, he can still significantly contribute to a team, something he hopes an NBA team will take note of.
“I still feel pretty good. I feel like I have many more years left in me,” he said.
Ingram does not know what future road his career will take him down. But, jut like his time in the D-League so far, he will make that future road his.