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Bronny James is now a Los Angeles Laker. Here’s what lies ahead in his NBA career


Bronny James is now a Los Angeles Laker. Here’s what lies ahead in his NBA career

NEW YORK — For Bronny James, the anticipation is over. Now, the work of being an NBA player begins.

James just went through one of the most highly scrutinized pre-draft processes in recent memory, all by virtue of being the son of LeBron James. He was under a spotlight unlike anyone else in his draft class, as he has been since he was a freshman in high school. In a year without any high-profile names at the top of the draft and no clear-cut No. 1 pick, James was the draft’s main attraction, going 55th overall to the Los Angeles Lakers, his father’s team.

While the hype will continue, and the fishbowl will follow him to the league, James’ actual life in the NBA is about to be pretty ordinary. As a late second-round pick, little is expected of him as a player. Most players drafted that late are fortunate to get a guaranteed contract, though Rich Paul, James’ agent at Klutch Sports Group, said publicly James would not sign a two-way deal. Many late second-rounders don’t even make the roster when the regular season begins or stay on it as it endures.

Bronny James, however, is not like other rookies. His path forward, at least from a basketball perspective, will be typical. But his circumstances over the next year will be highly unusual. A newly minted NBA player at 19, in his first year with the Lakers, he may spend nearly every day of the next year with his dad.

LeBron James has to first decide if he wants to stay with the franchise. He can opt-out of his contract for next season and has until Saturday to do so. If he does, he can re-sign and stay in Los Angeles. Once LeBron and Bronny are both under NBA contract, it will be the first time a father and son have been together in the NBA at the same time, let alone played together.

“That feels like something that can be magical,” Lakers president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said Thursday. “We know and have to respect that LeBron has a decision about his opt-out. … If it worked out that he was on our team next season, NBA history could be made. And NBA history should be made in a Lakers uniform.”

Bronny James’ first time on a court in a Lakers uniform might be July 6, when the Lakers open a three-game slate at the California Classic Summer League with a matchup against the Sacramento Kings. Then comes a jaunt to Las Vegas for more summer-league action.

Training camp will begin in September, possibly in Hawaii, where the franchise has held several preseason practices over the years. That may be a small measure of relief for the James family as a stay from the unceasing attention Bronny James is likely to endure in Los Angeles. He may find calm in the quotidian demands of an NBA player, from shootarounds to seemingly never-ending travel to the camaraderie of a professional team.

How James handles the pressure will be worth watching, yet he has dealt with it since he was a young teenager. He admitted last month at the NBA Draft Combine that it can still be overwhelming.

“It’s a lot,” he said. “It’s built me into a strong individual. All this, I’m extremely grateful, but it’s a lot sometimes.”

It will certainly be noisy and likely unfair. James will enter the NBA with a profile that far outstretches his pedigree. Expectations will be high, and claims of nepotism on the Lakers’ account will be loud. Any slip-up, or even the lack of a chance to play, will only heighten the tension.

All James has done is try to ignore it. He was the 17th-ranked player in his high school class, according to consensus rankings. His lone season at USC was undercut by a frightening health issue last July when he went into cardiac arrest during a practice and was rushed to a hospital. While James recovered and returned to the floor and competitive games, he said the fear from that day has lingered. It may have colored his time at USC, where he struggled as a freshman, averaging just 4.8 points and 19.3 minutes in 25 games.

That did not diminish any conjecture about his future. In 2022, LeBron James said he wanted to play with his son before he retired. Bronny James has seen his career run sidecar to his father ever since. Still, Bronny believed he would not be drafted just because of his family ties.

“This is a serious business,” he said last month. “And I don’t feel like there would be a thought of, ‘I’m just drafting this kid just because I’m going to get his dad.’ I don’t think a GM would really allow that.”

Now, they’ll be together.

Just making it to the NBA should be considered a success for James, considering the odds of getting there, even for highly rated high school prospects. A player drafted as low as James would be lucky to get into an NBA game as a rookie, let alone break through into a team’s rotation. Isaiah Wong, last year’s 55th overall pick, played in just one game for the Indiana Pacers this past season. Only six second-round picks from the 2023 draft appeared in at least 40 games this past season.

Whether the Lakers keep James in the NBA roster or send him to the G League remains to be seen. Pelinka and new head coach JJ Redick have already made it known they expect this team to be in a position to contend for a deep run into the playoffs after 47 wins and a first-round exit last spring.

Even players selected high in the draft struggle to be productive and efficient during their rookie year. There could be scant few minutes available for James, and he may need more seasoning with the South Bay Lakers, where he would get the playing time to develop.

“He’s not a person that has ever taken shortcuts or expected or been entitled about basketball opportunities,” Pelinka said. “He’s worked for everything that he’s gotten, including being selected today at 55.”

(Photo: Jeff Haynes / NBAE via Getty Images)

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