Matt Ryan, from former grave cleaner to Los Angeles Lakers player

Matt Ryan, from former grave cleaner to Los Angeles Lakers player



4:00 p.m., October 17, 2022

The gesture was furtive but worth dubbing. Seeing Matt Ryan return a sixth long-range shot, LeBron James, in civilian clothes on the bench, scratched the palm of his hand in contract signing mode. It was last Sunday, for a preseason game won by the Los Angeles Lakers against the Golden State Warriors. Knowing the influence of King James on the recruitment of his franchise, it was a sacred gift, at the very least a beautiful promise, for a player with a still precarious status. Ryan, a 25-year-old winger, is an anonymous trimmer in NBA backyards, looking for a jump seat and towels to stretch out during downtime. “I’m delighted for this kid, he probably got a job tonight”confirmed Darvin Ham, the coach of the Angelinos, just after the demonstration.

Despite his young age, the person concerned has followed an already damn winding course. A year and a half ago, he walked the paths of Saint Joseph Cemetery in Yonkers, New York. To clean the graves there, at dawn, sometimes by -10°C. “I wore up to eight layers of clothes”, he told The Athletic website. Mow lawns, rake leaves, sow plots: such was his daily life for several months. Supplementing with deliveries for Uber Eats or DoorDash. Just to better fill the fridge, feverishly hoping that the door of his dream will eventually open. In fact, the sports bag was always at hand. Rather than finding an office job, with his fresh economics degree, he needed the flexibility to be ready to answer the call of a team.

Three teams in five years

Until now, bad luck was a faithful companion. An uneven college career, three teams in five years, a successful last season in Chattanooga (15.4 points, 88 3-point shots in 33 games) but not enough to see his name checked off in the 2020 draft. trials previously obtained from franchises had all had to be canceled, pandemic requires. Similarly, no summer league, a valuable showcase for players of its rank, nor prospects abroad. Also impossible to train in his university, closed room. “So I went to Walmart, bought a basketball hoop and put it in the parking lot in front of my house. »

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The first ray of light appears in the 2021 offseason. Cleveland invites him to join its summer team, then Denver its training camp. Without continuation. So go for a detour through the G League (development league) then an interlude of two matches, in February, within a heterogeneous Team USA in the qualifying campaign for the 2023 World Cup. The Boston Celtics are knocking on the door in the stride. For a two-way contract, a sort of fixed-term contract leaving the employer’s hands free. Starving but unforgettable results: only one match played, a successful basket in five minutes, not the right to play in the play-off but that of living as close as possible to an NBA final. By haranguing his teammates or acting as opposition, in street clothes, during the shots taken during the warm-up.

This time, it’s less about tapestry. “Matt has a background that we need, we can never have enough shooters”, supports the Lakers coach, who will open the 2022-2023 ball on Wednesday, with a view to regaining the title. The contract he has in his pocket not being guaranteed, Ryan remains on the alert. He has the habit : “My mum writes to me every day, saying ‘you’ve been working for this, you’ve been waiting for this for the past few years, just try to make the best of it.’ I have no more time to waste. I know that every opportunity to show myself can be the last. »

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