Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

NEW YORK — The Los Angeles Lakers selected Bronny James with the 55th pick of the NBA draft Thursday, a major step in Lakers star LeBron James’s long-held dream of teaming up with his eldest son in the NBA.

For the 19-year-old James, who spent one season at the University of Southern California, the selection in the second round of the draft completes a remarkable comeback from a sudden cardiac arrest he suffered during a July 2023 practice with the Trojans. Shortly after the incident, James’s family announced he would pursue a return to basketball after consulting with several doctors, and he made his USC debut in December.

“Not a feeling in the [f—ing] world better than being around raising my boys to MEN,” LeBron James wrote Wednesday alongside an Instagram photo of him playing basketball with Bronny and Bryce, his 17-year-old son. “Pops over here getting emotional as hell just thinking about y’all journey so far! Thank you both for allowing me to be your DAD and be a part of your compass through life’s trials and tribulations!”

The NBA’s inaugural two-day draft unfolded at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for Wednesday’s first round and at a Manhattan ESPN studio for Thursday’s second round. The James family traveled to New York City for draft week, but James did not attend the draft ceremonies and was not available for media interviews.

ESPN commentator Bob Myers said Thursday on the draft broadcast that James’s agent, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul, had “a plan and a place” to land his client with the Lakers.

“Rich Paul is calling teams [and saying] don’t take Bronny James,” Myers said early in the second round. “[Paul] is saying, ‘If you take him, he’s going to Australia.’”

LeBron James, 39, has long hoped he and Bronny would become basketball’s version of Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr., who were teammates with MLB’s Seattle Mariners in 1990 and 1991. LeBron James has been a regular presence at his son’s USC, high school and AAU tournament games in recent years. Should LeBron and Bronny James take the court together, they will become the first father and son duo to do so in NBA history.

Bronny James, who first garnered national attention as a freshman at Sierra Canyon School north of Los Angeles, blossomed into a four-star recruit and one of the highest-earning name, image and likeness (NIL) athletes given his celebrity and massive social media followings.

On the court, the 6-foot-2 guard averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25 games with USC, and he spent most of the season coming off the bench. James displayed his ability as a perimeter defender, but he wasn’t utilized as a primary playmaker and shot just 26.7 percent on three-pointers.

After the Trojans finished a disappointing 15-18 and failed to reach the NCAA tournament, Coach Andy Enfield departed for Southern Methodist University and James declared for the NBA draft and entered the NCAA’s transfer portal. He later elected to remain in the draft and participated in the NBA’s scouting combine in Chicago.

“I’ve had a year with some ups and downs but all added to growth for me as a man, student and athlete,” James wrote on Instagram in April while announcing his departure from USC. “I’ve made the decision to enter the NBA Draft while maintaining my college eligibility, and will also be entering the NCAA transfer portal. Thank you to USC for an amazing freshman year, and as always thankful for my family, friends, doctors, athletic trainers and fans for their support.”

LeBron James’s contract with the Lakers includes a $54.1 million player option for the 2024-25 season, and he has until Saturday to decide whether he will exercise it. The 21-year veteran is reportedly seeking a multiyear extension with the Lakers, who hired JJ Redick, James’s podcast co-host, as their coach this month.

“I’m going to dedicate this season to Bronny because of the incident that happened this summer,” LeBron James said this past October. “It just puts everything in perspective. No matter what’s going on in your life at that point in time, the only thing that matters is your family. To see what he’s been through over the last few months, it’s been a lot. I can only imagine how it’s been for him because it’s been a lot for me and for our family.”

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