Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Bronny James says he can handle ‘amplified’ pressure of playing for Lakers with his famous father

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Bronny James says the opportunity to play professionally alongside his famous father played no role in his decision to enter the NBA draft.

Now that the 19-year-old son of LeBron James has been selected by the Los Angeles Lakers anyway, Bronny says he can still handle all the extra attention and pressure while the James family makes basketball history.

“I’m … trying to get my name out for myself,” Bronny said Tuesday. “I just want to come in and get my work in and get better every day. I never really had a thought of me going to play with my dad. That’s always there to take part of, but it wasn’t a main focus of mine.”

The Lakers formally introduced Bronny James and their first-round pick, Tennessee wing Dalton Knecht, in a news conference at their training complex. Los Angeles selected Bronny with the 55th overall pick last week, creating the potential for an NBA first.

No father and son have ever played in the league at the same time, let alone on the same team.

“It’s for sure amplified the amount of pressure,” Bronny James said. “I’ve already seen it in (social) media and on the internet and stuff talking about (how) I might not deserve an opportunity. But I’ve been dealing with stuff like this for my whole life. It’s nothing different. It’s more amplified for sure, but I can get through it.”

Bronny reiterated that he didn’t jump to the NBA just because his 39-year-old father is still an active player, acknowledging he didn’t necessarily share his father’s oft-stated dream of playing in the league together. Bronny also knew he couldn’t control where he was drafted, despite what he’s read on social media recently about the Lakers’ pick being a nepotistic effort to keep LeBron James with the Lakers for the rest of his career.

Bronny James is the oldest son of the NBA’s career scoring leader. LeBron James has spent the past six seasons with the Lakers, and he is all but certain to return to the team even though he is currently a free agent after declining his $51.4 million player option for next season.

LeBron James quietly watched his son’s introductory news conference from the back of the Lakers’ gym at their training complex.

Bronny said he’s better prepared for the challenges ahead of him because of “stuff that (LeBron) has been telling me my whole life. Just having that work ethic, and coming in and getting your work in, and listening to your coaches and being coachable, stuff like that he’s driven into my head my whole life.”

Bronny James deftly answered questions about everything he’ll face after jumping straight to the NBA from one short season of college basketball. He played inconsistently last winter at USC after recovering from a frightening cardiac event in July 2023.

“The time that I had off, I feel like I could have been perfecting my game more,” Bronny said. “I just feel like I’ve been given the opportunity to showcase what I can really do, because I wasn’t given that much of an opportunity at SC. So I’m excited for what it’s going to be.”

Rather than spending another year in college, Bronny said he expects to improve his game in the Lakers’ player development system being set up under new coach JJ Redick, who emphasized the necessity of developing talent from within the organization after general manager Rob Pelinka hired him last month.

“Rob and I did not give Bronny anything,” Redick said. “Bronny has earned this through hard work. For us, prioritizing player development, we view Bronny as Case Study 1, because his base level of feel, athleticism, point-of-attack defender, shooting, passing, there’s a lot to like about his game. As we build out our player development program holistically, he’s going to have the opportunity to be an excellent NBA player.”

Bronny James and Knecht both expect to play for the Lakers’ summer league teams in Sacramento and Las Vegas this month.

LeBron and Bronny James are likely to join a short list of fathers and sons who have played together in North American professional sports. Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. played together with the Seattle Mariners during parts of the 1990 and 1991 MLB seasons, while hockey great Gordie Howe played with his sons Marty and Mark with the WHA’s Houston Aeros and the NHL’s Hartford Whalers.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA

Greg Beacham, The Associated Press

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