Bronny James drafted by Lakers, can now make history with dad LeBron

LeBron "Bronny" James Jr. is taking his talents to … Los Angeles, where history with his father awaits.

James, the son of NBA superstar LeBron James, was drafted by his father's Lakers with the 55th overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft on Thursday after going unselected in the first round. If the pair take the court together, it will be the first time a father and son have played together in NBA history.

The 6-foot-2 guard out of the University of Southern California had been a major talking point leading up to draft. While a lot of the hype may come from his last name, his game has steadily developed over the years to prepare him for this moment.

Yahoo Sports NBA draft analyst Krysten Peek projected that James would be taken with the 55th overall selection by the Los Angeles Lakers.

“James is far from a finished product, but proved he belonged in this draft class as a prospect at the draft combine, where he shot the ball well and showed more scoring potential in the lane with his floater,” Peek wrote in her most recent mock draft.

Despite sharing genes with one of the greatest basketball players of all time, experts weren’t as high on James coming into the draft as they were when his father was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2003. One reason for that is because of James’ underwhelming freshman season at USC. The guard averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting below 40% from the field. Couple that with a Trojans squad that underachieved, and it’s clear James’ first and only season in college didn’t quite go to plan.

On July 25, James collapsed after suffering cardiac arrest during a USC basketball practice. He was hospitalized and was in stable condition before being discharged three days later. The health scare set back what was supposed to be a ramp-up to his college season. He wasn’t able to practice until late November before suiting up in December to play his first collegiate game.

James showed flashes of potential during the year. One of his best performances was early in the season against Oregon State when he scored 15 points.

The freshman scored in double-digits only three times. For every electrifying fast-break dunk that reminded fans and scouts of his basketball lineage came a head-scratching shot or decision on the court that warranted questions of James' legitimacy as an NBA prospect.

“We wouldn’t be talking about him if his name was Joe Thomas,” an NBA executive told the New York Post. “Small combo guard that’s not going to grow much more, that has a very good feel on how to play. Not a great ballhandler, streaky shooter, strong, vertical athlete and just a decent defender right now.”

Despite the hesitancy by many scouts and executives, history shows that the sons of NBA players often outplay their draft positioning.

“You don't want to rank him high just because of his father, so maybe you underrank," an anonymous Eastern Conference GM told Yahoo Sports' Tom Haberstroh.

Haberstroh noticed a trend in players like Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who had a father in the league, and how they sometimes turn out to become All-Star-caliber players.

"As we talk about Bronny’s candidacy, it’s worth pointing out that the success of second-generation players like Brunson isn’t the exception; it’s the rule. Jalen Brunson (33rd in 2018; son of Rick), Domantas Sabonis (11th in 2016; son of Arvydas) and Stephen Curry (7th in 2009; son of Dell) exceeded expectations — not to mention perennial All-Stars like Kobe Bryant (13th in 1996; son of Joe “Jellybean” Bryant), Klay Thompson (11th in 2011; son of Mychal) and Devin Booker (13th in 2015; son of Melvin) weren’t even top-10 picks."

Many believed that James would get drafted simply because his father in 2022 told The Athletic that he wanted to play with his son in the league before he retires.

“My last year will be played with my son,” LeBron said at the time. “Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”

LeBron has since doubled back a bit on his comments. The 39-year-old is "off this idea of having to play with Bronny," according to his agent, Rich Paul, who is also Bronny James' agent.

"If he does, he does. But if he doesn't, he doesn't,” Paul told ESPN. “There's no deal made that it's guaranteed that if the Lakers draft Bronny at 55, he [LeBron] will re-sign. If that was the case, I would force them to take him at 17. We don't need leverage. The Lakers can draft Bronny and LeBron doesn't re-sign. LeBron is also not going to Phoenix for a minimum deal. We can squash that now. There are other teams that love Bronny.”

That's what Paul said publicly. Privately might have been a different matter. As the second round played out, former Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers, now working as an ESPN broadcaster, said Paul was calling teams and telling them if they selected Bronny, he would play in Australia instead.

That implied Paul had a specific destination in mind, which has now apparently come to pass.

James finished his high school career at Sierra Canyon as a four-star recruit and a McDonald’s All-American. The guard averaged 14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals his senior year of high school.