Nicki Minaj thought she was gonna sit courtside at a regular old Lakers game Tuesday night -- turns out, she had front row seats to one of the best rookie debuts EVER!
Despite celebs like Richard Sherman and Will Ferrell in the house, the REAL star at Staples Center was Andre Ingram ... the 32-year-old rookie who dropped 19 on the first place Houston Rockets!
Ingram's story is pretty awesome ... he's been grinding it out in the G-league for the past decade hoping to get a shot in the NBA ... and Tuesday night, he made the most of his big chance.
In fact, toward the end of the game, the crowd began chanting "MVP" at Ingram -- who later called the whole thing a "once in a lifetime" experience.
The Rockets ended up winning the game 105-99 -- but no one seemed to care ... it's ANDRE-MANIA in Los Angeles!!!