We all know the cost of having a basketball team that consists of some of the country’s best players: they don’t all stay for as long as we wish they did.
On Monday, April 4th, Brandon Ingram announced in the sweetest way possible that he was ending his college career and entering the 2016 NBA Draft. He broke everyone’s hearts by posting a farewell letter on the Player’s Tribune, in which he talked about his basketball experience in high school and in Duke.
“The first thing that jumps into my mind is the day I got a call from Coach K. You don’t forget that day,” he starts, with a tone of humility and appreciation for his opportunities that couldn’t be more heartwarming. He goes on to reminisce about his days as the “skinny, quiet” kid, when clothes didn’t seem to fit him just right and he got criticized for how thin he was. His size stopped being an impracticality as he began to play and practice with the older boys, who taught him how to play rough. His coach, Jerry Stackhouse, also helped in toughening him up during his early days, though clearly Ingram didn’t need much help: “By ninth grade, I was 6’2″.”
It’s easy to see why Ingram was bound to be one of the ones to head to the NBA early. His talent and drive to work and succeed are as admirable as his humility. He spends a lot of the letter sending out specific thank-you’s to people and letting them know what sort of impact they made on him, from his teammates, to his coaches, to his parents and his brother.
Ingram even makes us go “aww” with a story about his Public Speaking class, something that doesn’t seem to be his forte since he’s always been known as the “quiet” kid. He tells us how he hates being called up to present, but that he has one final assignment coming up: a speech in which he’s going to talk about “how you can love a place and still have to leave it.”
As I was finishing reading his letter on my phone, I walked up the stairs into my dormitory to find Ingram himself siting on one of the chairs in the common room. The chairs are the really high ones, bar-style, that most of us have to jump to sit on. He was leaning on the edge of the seat and his feet comfortably reached the ground.
I played it cool and gave him a head-nod as he greeted me with his usual “Hey, what’s up,” the same thing he says to all the kids that live in our building. He’s known as one of the nicest basketball freshmen.
Next year, when I’m watching him play on TV wearing something other than Duke blue, I’ll probably think back to all the moments where I ran into him in our dorm and realize how stupid I was to not have had a conversation with him, or at least congratulated him on his incredibly heartwarming farewell letter.
And then I’ll feel proud to have sort of known one of the best, most kind and humble basketball legends of all time, and to have had him play for my school. Go Duke.