More than a handful of professional athletes dream of the day when they watch their sons follow in their footsteps. Just ask Ray Boone how proud he is of his son Bob, or Bob Boone on how he beams with over the careers of sons Bret and Yankees manager Aaron. Or watch Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater grin ear to ear during an interview with his son Matthew, a special teams star with the New England Patriots. It begs the question: Will Bronny James try to bypass college to play at the same time as his legendary father, LeBron James?
A diamond-shaped precedent
Taking it one step further, imagine Aug. 31, 1990, when the Griffeys — Kens Senior and Junior — played together for the Seattle Mariners. Less than one month later, father and son hit back-to-back homers as the historic season ended.
“This is the pinnacle for me, something I’m very proud of,” Griffey Sr. said at the time. “You can talk about the ’76 batting race, the two World Series I played in and the All-Star games I played in. But this is No. 1. This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
While not as heralded, the Rainses — Tims Senior and Junior — played together for the Baltimore Orioles at the end of the 2001 season.
The current and future James gang
A major topic around NBA circles centers around the NBA is the possibility of Lebron James playing alongside (or even against) his son, Lebron James Jr., better known as Bronny. Bronny, who just turned 15 plays high school ball in Chatsworth, California, along with Dwayne Wade’s son Zaire and five-star recruit, Ziaire Williams.
Judging by his profile and traffic on social media (3.2 million Instagram followers; more than one million views on YouTube channel Ballislife), Bronny James is more popular than most pro athletes, which puts him in a spotlight to draw attention to every aspect of his life — especially his future. At this point in his career, Bronny, at 6-foot-2, is a different player than his dad with more of a finesse game and still-evolving shooting skills. Under a nearly unprecedented microscope, every move the young player makes will be evaluated, discussed, analyzed, critiqued, and praised. Such are the benefits and drawbacks of being the son of one of the NBA’s all-time greatest.
“I haven’t closely evaluated him yet,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Corey Evans told Yahoo sports. “But from a quick glance, he’s made significant progressions over the last year in terms of skill set, improving as an athlete and getting bigger, taller and stronger. You hate to project four or five years in advance, but right now, everything adds up to him definitely being an NBA prospect.”
Bronny James and the class of 2023
Bronny James is scheduled to graduate high school in 2023. His superstar dad will be knocking on the door of his 39th birthday when the 2023-2024 season starts; Bronny will be 19 when the season opens. Given his exposure to the limelight, paternal tutelage, and experience on the big stage, son should be NBA ready, but as far as skills go, that remains to be seen.
All of which begs some obvious questions (aside from Bronny’s NBA-ready talent): Will the NBA’s rule which prohibits prep players from going directly to the pros, which is now enforced, be on the books come the 2023-24 season?
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver believes the rule likely will be dropped before the 2022 draft. Silver says that would give teams that have traded draft picks some time to let those deals come to fruition via interim drafts.
“There are a bunch of issues that need to be worked through between us and the players association, so it’s something we’re in active discussions about,” Silver told The Oregonian. “It’s a few years away, I think.”
Will the stars align?
Assuming the current NBA rules against prep players going directly to the NBA goes away, there is the issue of whether LeBron James Sr. will still be in the NBA. In the 2018-2019 season, there were five players in the 38-39 years old range and only two over 40 — Dirk Nowitzki (who has since retired) and Vince Carter, who averaged 17 minutes a game last season. Given the physicality of King James’ game and the punishment he takes, he will have to avoid serious injury to be a premium player at age 39.
And then there’s the issue of where Bronny might land in the draft. Do father and son want to play on the same team — which is a challenge given the randomness of the draft — or would the two rather be on-court rivals?
Lastly, had LeBron James Sr. not gone directly into the NBA from high school, he likely would have landed at Ohio State. The Buckeyes are but one school recruiting Bronny should he decide to go to college. No one really knows whether dad regrets not going to college, but he admits that he believes the current NCAA system, which does not reward college basketball stars, is unfair.
“The NCAA is corrupt,” James told the Los Angeles Times. “We know that. Sorry, it’s going to make headlines, but it’s corrupt.”
Will the NCAA change its policy by 2023? Will King James still be in the league at that point, and will his son have what it takes to go from 12th grade to the NBA hardwood? It’s anyone’s guess, but Vegas is taking bets.