NBA draft: Bronny James wants to make name for himself on a hoops journey with Akron roots

Bronny James did not grant interviews with reporters during his freshman season at USC, so his comments on Tuesday at the NBA draft combine was one of his first opportunities to discuss his future goals in a public setting.
Bronny James did not grant interviews with reporters during his freshman season at USC, so his comments on Tuesday at the NBA draft combine was one of his first opportunities to discuss his future goals in a public setting.

Bronny James possessed advanced basketball knowledge and instincts as a 4-year-old playing at the Ed Davis Community Center in Akron.

Because of those factors and other abilities, James' first hoops coach, Danyelle Love, placed him in a league with 6- and 7-year-olds instead of children his own age.

“I knew that he was going to be something special because at age 4 he understood attacking the gap, he understood picks and rolls, he understood the game,” Love, a former North High School basketball standout, longtime AAU coach and close friend of Bronny's grandmother, Gloria James, said during a recent phone interview.

Where will Bronny James go in the 2024 NBA draft? Could the Los Angeles Lakers or Cleveland Cavaliers pick LeBron James' firstborn son?

The eldest of LeBron and Savannah James' three children, Bronny James has appeared to be destined for professional basketball since his childhood. And the 19-year-old James will certainly be in the spotlight during the June 26-27 NBA draft.

Akron native LeBron James has said in the past he wants to play on the same team as Bronny but later explained he could envision the oldest of his two sons as a teammate or an opponent in the league.

LeBron's current team, the Los Angeles Lakers, has picks in the first (No. 17 overall) and second (No. 55) rounds of this year’s draft. One of LeBron's former franchises, the Cavaliers have one selection (first round, No. 20). The Lakers and Phoenix Suns, who have one pick (first round, No. 22), were the only teams to have pre-draft workouts with Bronny, his agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN last week. Paul explained limiting the number of workouts was by design.

The Lakers are a more logical suitor than the Suns partly because Bronny is widely projected by draft analysts to become a second-round choice. Paul said the Minnesota Timberwolves (first round, No. 27, and second round, No. 37), Dallas Mavericks (second round, No. 58) and Toronto Raptors (first round, No. 19, and second round, No. 31) "love" Bronny, too. Paul's quotes in ESPN's story did not include a mention of the Cavs.

Bronny James, left, confers with his father, LeBron James, at a high school all-star game.
Bronny James, left, confers with his father, LeBron James, at a high school all-star game.

Bronny James says he's determined to make a name for himself in NBA

No matter where Bronny lands, he's on a mission to make a name for himself, something he has acknowledged as an obstacle because his father is among the greatest players of all time.

“I just want to have people know my name is Bronny James and not be identified as just LeBron James' son,” Bronny told reporters with a smile in May during the NBA Combine in Chicago. “I feel like that would be a great angle.

“Everything that follows my dad, people just try to link me with that and all the greatness that he's achieved. I haven't done anything yet, so I feel like there needs to be that divide between Bronny and LeBron.”

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA draft combine at Wintrust Arena.
Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA draft combine at Wintrust Arena.

Where is Bronny James from?

Bronny, whose full name is LeBron Raymone James Jr., was born at Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital in 2004, the year after the Cavs drafted his dad first overall out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

As a Cavs rookie in 2003, LeBron bought a house in Bath Township before Bronny was born. Bronny was 5 years old when his dad decided in 2010 to leave the Cavs for the Miami Heat, 9 when LeBron announced in 2014 he would return to Cleveland and 13 when he joined the Lakers in 2018.

Bronny graduated in 2023 from Sierra Canyon School in Chatsworth, California, and then attended the University of Southern California. In his lone collegiate season, he was limited to 25 of USC’s 33 games after he suffered cardiac arrest during a practice on July 24, 2023. He was hospitalized for three days and underwent surgery to treat a congenital heart defect.

Southern California guard Bronny James (6) dribbles the ball against UCLA guard Sebastian Mack (12) on Jan. 27 in Los Angeles.
Southern California guard Bronny James (6) dribbles the ball against UCLA guard Sebastian Mack (12) on Jan. 27 in Los Angeles.

What were Bronny James' stats at USC after cardiac arrest interfered with his freshman season?

A guard who measured 6 feet, 1½ inches without shoes and weighed 210 pounds at the combine, Bronny averaged 4.8 points on 36.6% shooting from the field, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a USC freshman. His impressive combine performance included a second-place finish in the 3-point shooting drill (19 of 25).

How much did Bronny’s heart issue interfere with his 2023-24 season?

“I was set back, but that's not an excuse,” he said. “I have put it in so many years of work, and I don't want to have anyone think that I just because I had this issue that I'm lower than everyone else.”

Bronny said the “love and affection” of his parents helped him overcome the medical-related adversity he encountered. He said fear is “still lingering,” but he added, “I just love the game so much that it just overpowers it.”

More on Bronny James: How common is cardiac arrest in young athletes? We asked Akron experts

I Promise School eighth grade boys basketball coach Danyelle Love, a former North basketball standout and longtime boys AAU coach, gives her players words of encouragement after a game against Buchtel middle school on Dec. 5, 2022, in Akron.
I Promise School eighth grade boys basketball coach Danyelle Love, a former North basketball standout and longtime boys AAU coach, gives her players words of encouragement after a game against Buchtel middle school on Dec. 5, 2022, in Akron.

How Bronny James set himself apart in Akron at a young age

Love said she sensed Bronny’s competitive nature and passion for hoops before he even reached kindergarten. Of all the kids Love has coached over roughly 28 years, she explained Bronny and Canton-born Huntington Prep star Darryn Peterson demonstrated the best basketball IQ.

Love also said the mission Bronny openly discusses has been in motion since those early days.

“I believe at age 4 that Bronny understood that he wanted to be his own man and wanted to prove himself, not because of dad, but because he had the confidence and he understood he knew the game at a young age,” Love said. “I think that just never left. I think that's just been his goal: ‘Thanks, dad, for being laying the footsteps for me, but I am my own man.’ He's been like that — independently strong-minded as a basketball player.”

LeBron James in Akron: NBA star says his new museum in House Three Thirty is something 'we can all be proud of' in his hometown

Bronny James (50) participates during the 2024 NBA Draft Combine May 14 in Chicago.
Bronny James (50) participates during the 2024 NBA Draft Combine May 14 in Chicago.

Bronny said in his pre-draft interviews with NBA teams he focused on “putting that Bronny James narrative out there more instead of just being LeBron James’ son.”

Speaking of narratives, a popular one is a team might draft Bronny simply to lure LeBron. Bronny said he’s driven to show everyone he belongs in the league no matter where his dad plays.

“That's one of the many motivation factors that I go off of,” Bronny said, “including all the negativity and hate that I receive.

“My dream has always just been to put my name out, make a name for myself and, of course, get to the NBA.”

Bronny James’ journey from the Ed Davis Community Center to the league will soon be complete.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at nulrich@thebeaconjournal.com. On Twitter: @ByNateUlrich.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Bronny James wants to be known in NBA as more than LeBron's son

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