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Playing with LeBron 'not my mindset,' Bronny says

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Published in Basketball
Wednesday, 15 May 2024 02:13

CHICAGO -- As Bronny James leaned back in his chair and surveyed the swarm of media members that had surrounded him Tuesday night at the NBA draft combine, he acknowledged the extra attention that comes with being the son of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James can be "a lot sometimes."

Yet, the 19-year-old USC guard reiterated that his goal is simply to play in the NBA, not necessarily on the same team as his father.

"I would be happy about getting to the league instead of me thinking about playing with my dad," Bronny James said. "That's not my mindset or not at all. I'm just trying to put in the work and see where it takes me from there."

LeBron James, who at age 39 completed his 21st NBA season in 2023-24, has repeatedly expressed a desire to team with his son before his career ends, even though he said following the end of the Lakers' season that he "hadn't given it much thought lately."

Bronny James did not grant interviews during his freshman season at USC, a decision he said was made by his advisors. Addressing the media Tuesday was one of his first opportunities to state his future goals, and he sought to create some distance between himself and his father.

He also shot down comparisons to lead initiators of offense around the NBA and instead compared his game to players such as the Boston Celtics' Jrue Holiday and Derrick White or the Sacramento Kings' Davion Mitchell for the way they influence winning by exceling in their roles.

"Bronny was just a nickname that I was just given when I was younger," James said. "But 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.

"Everyone's heard this before. I just want to have people know my name is Bronny James and not being identified as just LeBron James' son. I feel like that would great."

James got a chance to start separating himself at the combine, after being cleared to participate this week by an NBA panel following a cardiac arrest and procedure to repair a congenital heart defect nine months ago.

James participated in a scrimmage with other draft prospects Tuesday, scoring four points (shooting 2-for-8 on field goals) and grabbing four rebounds in 19 minutes. It did not maintain the momentum James had built following a strong showing on the opening night of the combine, which included knocking down 19 of 25 shots from 3 and recording a 40-inch vertical.

"My job is just to play a role and play the right way, make sure I get my teammates involved and stuff like that," James said. "But again, I was just super grateful for the opportunity to be out there. I felt like I should be out there."

James used the word "grateful" several times throughout his media session Tuesday, emphasizing that he was appreciative to be on the court considering there was a time after his diagnosis when he was not sure whether he would play again.

"It was a tough time for sure," James said. "But all this work that I've put in, it just really built me into someone that would never give up, and it paid off. I put in the work after that situation, and I'm back to where I want to be."

James acknowledged the heart issues had an effect on his freshman season at USC when he averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Although he has been cleared to play, James said he is still getting over some lingering doubt from the aftermath of the issue.

"I feel like my parents were a big factor of believing in me and giving me the love and affection that I needed at that time," he said. "I still think about everything that could happen, but I just love the game so much that it just overpowers me."

James has declared for the June 26-27 draft while maintaining his college eligibility and has until May 29 to decide whether to stay in the draft or return to college, where he has decided to explore the transfer portal.

James said he would take time to weigh his options before making the final decision.

"A lot of thought, a lot of alone time by myself and thinking about where I want to be and where my heart wants me to be," James said.

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