The Lakers stole a much-needed win on Wednesday, and it was all thanks to a player whose job was not playing basketball as recently as last year.
The game had been all but lost late in the fourth quarter. The Pelicans took a 111-108 lead on a dunk from former Laker Larry Nance Jr. with 7.8 seconds left, then watched Lakers guard Lonnie Walker IV clank a would-be game-tying 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left.
Pelicans rookie Dyson Daniels, the eighth overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, rebounded Walker's miss and was immediately fouled. With 1.6 seconds on the clock, all Daniels had to do was make one of two free throws to effectively put the game away.
He didn't make them.
LeBron James quickly rebounded Daniels' second miss, called timeout and moved the ball up for a second try at a game-tying 3-pointer. That attempt ultimately fell to Matt Ryan (no relation to the now-benched Indianapolis Colts quarterback), who drained an off-balance, contested 3-pointer to force overtime:
🎥 Every angle of Matt Ryan's buzzer-beater to force OT! pic.twitter.com/YKPIZ5laht
— NBA (@NBA) November 3, 2022
The Lakers ended up pulling out the 120-117 win in overtime to improve to 2-5, their second straight victory after opening the season on a five-game losing streak.
Lakers hero Matt Ryan was a DoorDash driver (and more) a year ago
It was a career-making moment for Ryan, whose story was already unbelievable.
Ryan transferred twice in his college career, going from Notre Dame to Vanderbilt to Chattanooga, before going undrafted in the 2020 NBA draft. He would see his first G League minutes in 2021.
What happened in the year between? As Ryan explained it earlier this year, he was driving DoorDash up until getting the call for the Cleveland Cavaliers' Summer League team. And UberEats. He was also coaching a grassroots basketball team. And his day job: working at a cemetery in Yonkers, New York.
Like many players, Ryan saw his post-college basketball prospects get wiped out by the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he had to wait a year while hustling the whole way before he could play basketball again.
That first opportunity came with the Cavaliers, then Ryan signed with the Denver Nuggets — and was waived two weeks later. He ended up signing with the Nuggets' G League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Gold, before finally getting an NBA shot with the Boston Celtics as a two-way player.
That time with the Celtics took him all the way to the NBA Finals, though he played only five minutes with the team during the regular season and none in the postseason.
In Year 2 as an NBA player, Ryan got his shot with the Lakers, whose dysfunction opened the door for the first real playing time of his NBA career. Clearly, he just made the most of it.