May 25, 2024

Bronny James on his future in the NBA: ‘I never thought about playing with my dad’

CHICAGO — The horde of reporters arrived before Bronny James did. They enveloped his podium on the second floor of the Marriott Marquis, crowding into a corner of a ballroom here as they waited to hear from the most famous prospect in the 2024 NBA Draft.

James’ draft status is uncertain, but his name and that of his father — LeBron James — is well-known. While just a few scattered media members interviewed the other 10 prospects in the room, a league official led Bronny to his seat at the center of the awaiting mass.

“Clear a path,” she yelled.

Bronny is now trying to create one of his own as the son of the world’s most famous basketball player. He arrived in Chicago this week under a microscope.

He was the 17th-ranked recruit in his high school class, but after a difficult freshman year at USC he is trying to prove that he not only deserves a spot in the NBA but to be drafted. He is also trying to get out from under his father’s shadow. LeBron has already said he wants to play with his son when he gets to the league.

Bronny is just trying to get there.

“My dream has always just been to put my name out, make a name for myself, and, of course, get to the NBA,” he said. “Which is what everyone’s end goal is here. I’ve never thought about playing with my dad, but of course he’s brought it up a couple of times.”

Bronny came to Chicago with all that following him, as he undergoes in-person scrutiny from NBA teams for the first time.

He participated in drills Monday and played in the five-on-five scrimmages Tuesday. He measured in at 6-foot-1.5 without shoes but with a 6-7.25 wingspan. He posted the sixth-best max vertical leap and tied for the 11th-best standing vertical.

Bronny missed 6 of 8 shots during the Tuesday scrimmage and scored four points, while also grabbing four rebounds and two steals in nearly 20 minutes.

The testing was a strong start to the week, though the shooting struggles reflected his uneven college performance. He averaged just 4.8 points per game and shot 36.6 percent from the field in his sole season at USC.

It is the latest test for Bronny after a tumultuous year in which he faced a significant health scare. He went into cardiac arrest last July and collapsed during a team practice. He recovered and recuperated and played in 25 games at USC.

Bronny is still affected by that July experience. The fear of that day has not left him, even if he has decided to keep playing.

“It’s still lingering,” he said. “I feel like my parents were a big factor in believing in me and giving me the love and affection that I needed at that time. But I still think about everything that could happen. I just love the game so much.”

(Photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

Now, Bronny will enter the draft under the burden of his and his father’s name. LeBron’s open desire to play with his son will cloud Bronny’s draft process and where he might go in the draft itself.

There is already speculation among opposing team officials about whether the Los Angeles Lakers would draft Bronny to unite father and son. They own the Nos. 17 and 55 picks. There is also speculation about whether another team would draft Bronny, whether as a pathway to try to acquire LeBron or do it to make life hard on the Lakers.

Bronny does not seem overly concerned about if he would be selected as an extension of his father. He believes he will be picked on his own merits. That is what he has worked for to this point, and what he still hopes to prove to teams.

“This is a serious business and I don’t feel like there would be a thought of ‘I’m just drafting this kid just because I’m going to get his dad,’” he said. “I don’t think a GM would really allow that. I’ve never really thought about that. I’ve put in the work and I would get drafted because of not only the player but the person that I am.”

Bronny hopes to enter the NBA as a supporting player. He said he wants to fit whatever niche a team is looking for from him.

He pointed to Davion Mitchell, Jrue Holiday and Derrick White as models of players he watches and hopes to emulate because of their ability to identify and excel in their roles. Defense and shooting are his calling cards at this stage in his career. 

But he already faces a scrutiny far greater than most NBA players. He faced the media Tuesday grateful for his chance to impress NBA teams but admitting that the cameras and attention that has followed him over the last half-decade has been, he said, “a lot.” 

That has forced him to get accustomed to the spotlight, even if he conceded that it has put a pressure on him that no one else in this draft class has encountered.

But I don’t wanna be that guy and say that all this pressure is what’s causing me to not perform as well as I want to,” he said. “It’s a lot but it’s something I gotta deal with.”

Bronny has largely allowed his game to speak for him. He did not talk to media during his year at USC and has rarely been in front of a microphone. This week, he will have to answer questions from team officials during the NBA Draft Combine’s routine interview process.

He will take visits to team facilities and undergo more testing and workouts. During it all, he hopes to drive home a point to the teams considering whether to take him in the draft.

“That I’m a genuine person,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of lessons from my mom, my dad. But also putting that Bronny James narrative out there more instead of just being LeBron James’ son – I think that’s really important to me.

Required reading

(Photo: Jeff Haynes / NBAE via Getty Images)