University of Southern California coach Andy Enfield has been the Trojans’ long-time coach and has produced several successful teams. This year will be significantly different from the rest of his tenure in Los Angeles. Enfield recruited the No. 1 point guard in the freshman class in Isaiah Collier, and didn’t draw as much interest as another player on his recruiting list.
Bronny James, the son of NBA legend LeBron, also signed as part of the Trojans’ 2023-24 recruiting class. Bronny has already been the subject of intense scrutiny because of his dad’s ambition to play with his son. But there were questions before Bronny signed with USC about whether he was good enough to play at the NBA level.
Then, Black sports news showed that Bronny suffered a cardiac event during the preseason. The ensuing health scare has kept Bronny off the court so far this season. It was announced this week that Bronny could return to practice and would be evaluated again next week to see if he can play in games.
Fathers and Sons Rarely Get Chance to Play Together
Professional sports are demanding on the bodies of athletes. Anyone fortunate enough to play into their late 30s or early 40s typically isn’t able to still help teams chase championships as Lebron has. But LeBron, 38, has said for years that he doesn’t want to step away from the game until he can play in the NBA with one of his sons.
There are few occurrences of this happening in American professional sports. The most notable example is when Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. played together for the Seattle Mariners. While the elder Griffey was at the end of his career, he was able to make history with his son. They became the first father and son duo to hit back-to-back home runs in games.
Gordie Howe played briefly with his sons, Mark and Marty, during the 1979-80 season for the Hartford Whalers in the NHL. Gordie Howe had a history of longevity and was involved in professional hockey at some level for over 40 years.
Bronny’s Recruitment Started Early
Before entering high school, Bronny was already being regarded as an elite prospect. Recruiting letters came to the James residence as early as 2015. While LeBron had also been a highly-touted prospect, he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school player, he didn’t receive attention that early.
Once Bronny started playing at Sierra Canyon School, a private school in Los Angeles, it was clear that there would be a definitive learning curve for Bronny. The team he was playing on already had two five-star recruits on it. ESPN announced 15 of their games would be broadcast on TV. Dwayne Wade’s son was already on the team.
As a freshman, Bronny would only average 4.1 points per game as the younger player competed with a talented roster for varsity minutes. Sierra Canyon finished the year 30-4 and reached the state championship game, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allegations of Nepotism, Scrutiny Heats Up
Bronny was able to work his way up to a regular starter by his senior season. Bronny averaged 14.2 points and 5.5 points per game. When Bronny was invited to the McDonald’s All-American game, there were coaches and players who suggested he was only named to the team due to his name recognition. Despite the criticism, Bronny played in the game and finished with 15 points.
Bronny would choose USC to play in college over Oregon and Ohio State. Due to the NBA’s rules, Bronny had to play at least one year in college, the G-League, or overseas before he could pursue his dream of playing with his dad.
Health Issue Slows Down Bronny
There was a lot of anticipation for Bronny’s first season with the Trojans, especially playing alongside Collier. However, Bronny went into cardiac arrest during a routine workout in June. Bronny would work together with doctors and USC to plan a way to ramp back up his activities.
Bronny ended up joining the team at practice before Thanksgiving and warmed up with them before a win over Brown. During Bronny’s absence, the Trojans are off to a 5-2 start. It is unclear how long Bronny will remain in college. LeBron has already talked to his Lakers’ teammates about missing a game night if Bronny makes his debut when Los Angeles is also set to play.
There are a few dates in December that may cause conflicts for LeBron. Due to his health issues, it seems unlikely Bronny will be able to have a strong enough season to merit being drafted.
The Pressure of Greatness
Recent sports updates will show that many sons or daughters of professional athletes don’t live up to the pressure of duplicating their parents’ achievements. However, there are notable examples of athletes exceeding their parents’ greatness. Kobe Bryant was a five-time NBA champion, while his dad, Joe, only finished his career by averaging 8.3 points per game during his eight-year tenure in the NBA.
Steph Curry, the son of Dell, also far exceeded what his dad was able to accomplish. Steph became arguably the greatest 3-point shooter of all time. But there are many other players who never quite fit the superstar billing. Luke Walton, son of Hall of Famer Bill, was a solid role player for many seasons with the Lakers but was never a standout contributor himself.
Anyone looking at top sports news would be silly to try to compare Bronny to his father. LeBron was a generational talent that has had few other players in history that can stack up to his excellence. Bronny hasn’t flashed that talent yet.
Maybe he will. But it’s more likely he won’t. Either way, it will be impossible to judge the 19-year-old until he is able to put more time in.
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