Last season, Brandon Ingram made himself a household name in the NBA world. The Pelicans fans call Ingram "B.I., Kingram, or Baby Durant" by his many nicknames.
But his performance during the Play-In Tournament and first round of the NBA Playoffs, Ingram is one of the league's rising stars. Considering the circumstances, Ingram elevated his play and his team to unimaginable heights.
Ingram headed into the season with something to prove. He started his Pelicans campaign in 2019 by becoming an All-Star for the first time, winning the Most Improved Player award, and averaging a career-high 23.8 points a game. He then signed a 5-year, $158 million contract extension.
Expectations were high the following season, paired with Zion Williamson. Would the Pelicans make the playoffs? That did not materialize, and the Pelicans again headed into the offseason with more questions than answers.
Those questions grew louder when the Pelicans started this season 3-16 with a rookie head coach (his 3rd coach in 3 seasons). Compounding his dilemma of a terrible season's start, Zion Williamson was missing, and the season appeared unsalvageable.
How would Ingram respond?
First, he and newly acquired CJ McCollum led the team into the Play-In Tournament.
Ingram was fabulous during the season's home stretch when the Pelicans needed wins to make the Play-In games. In the final weeks, the Lakers contests were arguably the two biggest games of the season. In those crucial wins, Ingram averaged 27.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and six assists and saved his best for when the spotlight was the brightest.
The Pelicans were in a win-or-go-home scenario, and Ingram was the main catalyst for advancing the Pelicans.
In the Spurs game, Ingram scored 27 points, grabbed five rebounds, and dished out five assists. He followed up with a 30-point, 6 rebounds, 6 assist effort on the road versus the Clippers to propel the Pelicans to the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2018. Ingram then elevated his game even further on the biggest stage.
Appearing in his first playoff series, Ingram averaged 27 points, six rebounds, and six assists in six games versus the defending conference champion Phoenix Suns. He became the first Pelicans' player to score at least 30 points in three-straight playoff games. His performance caught the attention of the national media. Suddenly, Ingram was in headline conversations among the NBA's best.
He answered every doubter about his ability to lead a team and be a successful player. Ingram's season proved for now, like the Cheers theme song says, "everybody knows his name."