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Bronny James, Basketball Player, Begins To Take Shape

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 11: Bronny James #0 of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers handles the ball during the Hoophall West tournament against the Perry Pumas at Footprint Center on December 11, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LeBron James Jr., better known as Bronny, is in France right now with the California Basketball Club playing a bunch of games against some of the best competition in Europe. CBC features numerous prominent sons, including Bronny's younger brother Bryce, Scottie Pippen's son Justin, and Penny Hardaway's son Ashton, as well as some other noteworthy Southern California-based high schoolers. But the draw is Bronny. ESPN is airing the CBC's European games because of Bronny, and they're probably happy with their commitment to do so, since yesterday he blessed some poor Frenchman with this monstrous dunk.

Two relevant things about Bronny vis-a-vis LeBron Sr. are 1) LeBron regrets naming his son after himself, and 2) LeBron wants to play alongside Bronny in the NBA. Barring loss of limb, the elder LeBron will still be in the NBA for the 2024-25 season, the first campaign Bronny will be eligible for. The hurdle here is whether or not Bronny turns out to be an NBA player. Every highly regarded high school recruit has their eye on the league, though few have to deal with the added pressure of LeBron James publicly vowing to become your teammate two full years before that's even legally possible, let alone feasible in a basketball sense. Bronny will ultimately succeed or fail to make the NBA on his own terms, and it's unfair to judge him against his dad, since, well, basically no person in the world is LeBron's equal as a basketball player.

Bronny is about to be a senior in high school, which means this summer represents his final major opportunity to improve his stock as a prospect before his final year of high school ball and an eventual commitment. Like his namesake father, Bronny is by all accounts an intelligent basketball player, though unlike LeBron Sr., Bronny is not built like some kind of combination of Karl Malone and Magic Johnson. He's 6-foot-3 and maybe still growing, which makes him essentially the size of an average NBA point guard. Most recruiting services rate him as a four-star prospect, somewhere between the 39th- or 43rd-best player in his class, and he holds scholarship offers from some of the biggest college programs in the country.

In a vacuum, the recruitment of the 39th-best player in the high school class of 2023 is not really newsworthy outside of the niche press. But the player in question is having his European tour broadcast on ESPN, so this is obviously not a vacuum. The New York Times covered Bronny's big summer a few weeks ago, and they got to the heart of the matter in painfully euphemistic terms.

Bronny, a 6-foot-2 guard, is largely characterized as having a keen basketball I.Q. but lacking elite athleticism and a polished shot — an asset to almost any team but most likely a role player.

Whatever Bronny ends up doing a year from now — attending college, playing in a development league or taking an unconventional route — it is unlikely to alter the trajectory of the championship ambitions of, say, Gonzaga or North Carolina.

New York Times

That's a gently laid-out example of the discordance between Bronny's hype as a prospect and abilities as a player. The discourse around his status generally has been a tricky, since he's neither a can't-miss superstar talent nor a scrub. One of Carlos Boozer's twin sons is the actual No. 1 prospect in his class, a ranking which clearly distinguishes between his last name and his talent. Bronny will always earn tons of attention because of who he is, but he's not such an unquestioned star player that he'll entirely justify that attention in basketball terms. None of this is his fault, and really, maybe LeBron Sr. should not have put the pressure to make the NBA onto his son. Because of his family and that fateful quote, some will always judge Bronny against the impossible standard of his father.

But something that is not ambiguous is that big-time dunk Bronny slammed down. If he will ultimately be judged as a basketball player, it is at least promising to see him put up numbers and do extremely cool stuff like that.

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