- Ryan’s journey to Los Angeles is one of the crazier NBA stories you’ll hear
- But who is Matt Ryan, the hero of the day for the Lakers?
- When did he join the Lakers?
Wednesday, with 1.3 seconds remaining on the clock, the Los Angeles Lakers were behind the New Orleans Pelicans 111-108 and facing a 1-6 start. Who did they turn to when a miracle was required? It must have been four-time MVP LeBron James, correct?
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Nope. How about the eight-time All-Star Anthony Davis? Guess again. The Lakers sent the ball to former delivery driver Matt Ryan, who made a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime in the nick of time (or rather, the second). The Lakers ultimately prevailed.
But who is Matt Ryan, the Lakers’ hero of the day? No, he is not the benched Indianapolis Colts quarterback moonlighting as a basketball player in quest of a new job, but his story is just as unlikely.
So, where did this individual originate from?
Matt Ryan began his collegiate career as an All-American by Parade magazine. This is virtually the only typical aspect of his climb to NBA fame. Ryan, a 6-6 forward from New Rochelle, New York, attended Notre Dame at first. Despite having played in 72 games over two seasons, he switched to Vanderbilt in search of further playing time.
After a year of inactivity, Commodores head coach Bryce Drew made him a starter before being replaced by Jerry Stackhouse. Instead of playing for the former NBA superstar, Ryan transferred to Chattanooga, where he completed his collegiate career.
Statistically, nothing about his undergraduate career indicated that he would achieve professional success. Ryan did not average double figures in college basketball until he departed a major conference. His finest quality was shooting, although across four seasons he shot less than 37 percent from deep. On paper, he appeared to be a four-year college athlete ready for a new career.
But that was not the case
Initially, it was the case. Ryan went undrafted in 2020, and according to Jay King of The Athletic, he decided against using his economics degree from Vanderbilt to obtain a desk job. Instead, he was employed as a landscaper at the St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Yonkers, New York. He worked as a delivery driver for UberEats and DoorDash to augment his income. Throughout, he awaited another opportunity to play basketball.
Typically, such an opportunity would have presented itself really fast. 2020 and 2021 were, without a doubt, the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This made workout chances substantially more difficult to find. So Ryan sat out. When the Cleveland Cavaliers offered him a berth on their 2021 Summer League team, he recommenced his road to the NBA.
When exactly did he join the Lakers?
Ryan’s arrival in Los Angeles was such an afterthought that he did not even receive a news release. He shared one with another offseason addition to the Lakers, Dwayne Bacon, when the two were signed in September. Both were expected to go to training camp, serve as practice and preseason bodies, and then maybe head to South Bay to play for the team’s G League affiliate. This is the best that can be expected from a non-guaranteed camp signing.
In contrast, the Lakers under Rob Pelinka have traditionally not added players with guaranteed contracts throughout the offseason. There is an obvious financial reason for this strategy, but it has also afforded them greater roster flexibility than other clubs prior to the start of the season.
In 2021, they were so impressed with Austin Reaves’ performance in the Summer League that they signed him before training camp began. They had a roster slot remaining prior to opening night, which they used to re-sign Avery Bradley when the Golden State Warriors waived him.