Andre Ingram stole the hearts of sports fans everywhere Tuesday night when, at the ripe old age of 32, the sharpshooting guard finally made his NBA debut after 10 seasons in the G League.
Ingram came off the bench for the Lakers in their home finale and lit up the Rockets for 19 points in just under 30 minutes. He hit four of his five three-point attempts, including his first career shot a 27-footer from the top of the arc early in the second quarter.
The Lakers tweeted out a video documenting Ingram signing his NBA contract earlier in the day. Executives from the South Bay Lakers L.A.s G-League affiliate raved about Ingrams professionalism and determination. The whole episode was as inspiring and goosebumps-inducing as it gets.
Which got us thinking: What other athletes made delayed professional debuts in unusual circumstances? And do any of them compare?
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Here is a look at what we found, starting with some of the more notorious examples.
Morris improbable MLB career, of course, served as the basis for the fan-favorite baseball movie, The Rookie, starring Dennis Quaid. As the story goes, Morris was drafted by the Brewers in the 1983 draft, but he fizzled out after just four years in the minor leagues thanks to a series of arm injuries. By 1989, following a failed stint with the White Sox, Morris retired and took a job as a gym teacher and baseball coach at a west Texas High School. In the spring of 1999, Morris made a pact with his players: If they won the district championship, he would try out for an MLB team.
His team took home the championship, and Morris secured a tryout with the Devil Rays. There, he threw 12 straight 98-mph fastballs and signed a pro contract. He was 35 years old. Morris made his MLB debut the following September, striking out the lone batter he faced. He pitched in 21 games over two seasons with the Rays.
Warners unprecedented path to NFL stardom has been recited ad nauseum, especially as the quarterback was being inducted into the Hall of Fame last year. But that doesnt take away from how impressive it was. Warner went undrafted out of Northern Iowa in the 1994 draft. He signed with the Packers but couldnt make the team in the training camp. After he was released, Warner famously took a job stocking shelves at a local Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He made $5.50 an hour. In 1995, Warner joined the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League.
Andre Ingram, a 32-year-old rookie, steals the show for Lakers
He turned his three years of dominance in the AFL into a futures contracts with the Rams in 1998. Warner then spent time in NFL Europe before serving as the Rams third-stringer the next season. He finally took over the starting role in 2000, at 29 years of age, after Trent Green tore his ACL in a preseason game. Warner went on to win a Super Bowl with the Rams, reach another with the Cardinals, and finish his career with over 30,000 passing yards.
Paige put together one of the most stunning careers in sports history in terms of longevity and sustained dominance. The right-hander didnt make his MLB debut until he was 42 years old on July 9, 1948 with the Cleveland Indians, two days after his birthday. Paige had spent the first 20-plus years of his pro baseball career primarily in the Negro Leagues, while major-league teams refused to sign black players. That obviously changed in April of 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Paige signed his contract with the Indians on his birthday in 1948 and became the first black pitcher in MLB. Cleveland was in need of pitching at the time, and Paige rewarded his new club over the final three months of the season, going 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA. The Indians went on to win the World Series. Paige threw his final pro pitch at the age of 59 in 1966 in the Class-A Carolina League. He pitched professionally in five different decades.
Patricks story is perhaps the most unusual of the bunch. The year was 1928, and the man they called Les, The Silver Fox was head coach and general manager of the New York Rangers, who had reached the Stanley Cup Finals behind Frank Boucher and Bun and Bill Cook. Disaster struck in Game 2 of the series, when starting Rangers goaltender Lorne Chabot took a puck off his eye in the second period. (Remember: No goalie masks in the 1920s.) With no backup goalie on the roster which was apparently not a thing in this era Patrick threw on pads and inserted himself into the game at the age of 44 years, three months and nine days. He stopped 18 of the 19 shots he saw over the remainder of the game in his debut as a pro goalie, and the Rangers went on to win in overtime, 2-1. Patrick remains the oldest goaltender to ever play in a Stanley Cup Finals game.
After serving multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq over six years as a member of the Green Berets, Boyer enrolled in the University of Texas in 2010. Despite no previous experience playing football he played baseball and basketball in high school in California Boyer decided to try to walk onto the powerhouse Texas football program. He made the team as backup safety. In 2012, Boyer took over as The Longhorns long snapper after he saw a need at that position, watching videos to learn the technique. He stayed in that role for his final three seasons in Austin. Boyer, then 34 years old, went undrafted in 2015 and later latched on with the Seahawks. In a preseason in August of 2015, he played in three snaps for Seattle and recorded one tackle. He was released a couple weeks later, but his winding path remains a motivational football saga.
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Joe Strong finally made his MLB debut on May 11, 2000 at the age of 37 after playing in five different countries over 16 years. He was drafted by the As in the 15th round of the 1984 draft, but his pro baseball career didnt materialize until much later. Strong became the oldest player to make his debut since Diomedes Olivo debuted in 1960 as a 41-year-old. Olivo spent most of his career playing in Latin America. Strong was only called up to the majors after Ricky Bones now the Mets bullpen coach strained his back while watching T.V. in the clubhouse.