The biggest hurdle Bronny James will have to clear to make the NBA might be one that his dad can’t boost him over. Partially lost in NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s many comments during the summer league a couple of weeks ago was his support for lowering the age limit from 19 to 18, something that needs to happen prior to the 2023-24 season for Bronny to make the jump like LeBron did so many years ago.
The rule change has to be made during the new CBA negotiations, which are in the early stages between the league and the NBPA, according to Silver. While ESPN reported that the two sides expressed optimism a deal will be agreed upon before the winter opt-out date, NBC Sports said not all players and teams are on board with dropping the minimum age for draft eligibility. There are only so many roster spots, and understandably not all members of the players association are excited about having increased competition. If talks aren’t finalized before the opt-out date, the CBA could expire next summer.
There’s nothing about LeBron’s dedication to staying in shape that says he’s going to be physically unable to play NBA basketball in 2024-25. So regardless of if Bronny has to fill his gap year abroad or on a college campus, we’ll probably still see the father-son tandem on an NBA roster. It might just be more Giannis Antetokuonmpo family photo op than the Griffeys hitting back-to-back home runs. (LeBron’s other son, Bryce, is heading into his sophomore season at Sierra Canyon, and at almost 6-foot-6 already, he looks more like his dad physically than his older brother.)
Bronny is currently ranked by 247 Sports as the 50th best high school prospect heading into his senior season. Over the past decade, there’s only been a few players who finished ranked in that range to make an impact in the league. The biggest names are Zach Levine (No. 50 in 2013), Norm Powell (No. 52 in 2011), Dejounte Murray (No. 49 in 2015), Chuma Okeke and Jordan Poole (Nos. 50 and 51 respectively in 2017), and Robert Willams and Kevin Huerter (Nos. 50 and 51 respectively in 2016). And, predictably enough, there aren’t a lot of short guards on that list.
Obviously, all of those players were drafted, the highest being Levine at No. 13 in 2014. The difference is those players likely wouldn’t have been selected had they put their names into the draft after high school. If NBA teams were only picking from a pool of high school talent, it’d be feasible that a kid coming in at No. 50 on 247’s big board would be chosen. They’re not though as international talent and existing college prospects pretty much guarantee that a player of Bronny’s stature and skill set — not family name or lineage — would have to spend a year in college.
The other wrinkle if the age is reduced: It becomes a double draft, and Prince James (no slight intended) will be in a group with his high school class and last year’s graduates currently slogging through their one-and-done season. The only way Bronny gets drafted coming straight out of high school is if he grows 5 inches and goes ballistic during his senior year — or a team just wants to fuck with the Lakers and force them to either trade for Bronny or trade LeBron to them.
A recruiting expert recently told Sports Illustrated that there aren’t a lot of colleges courting Bronny because the assumption is he’s going straight to the NBA. (My guess is he signs with whatever team his dad is on as an undrafted free agent.)
“I think everybody is in agreement that he is a good player who can impact winning pretty much from day one at the college level. I just think the perception — although we haven’t heard anything definitive at all out of Bronny’s camp — is that he is not likely to play college basketball,” said Adam Finkelstein of 247 Sports.
On his official recruitment page, he doesn’t have a single offer, though Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina are on his interest list.
I totally get why a son would want to forgo college to play on the Lakers with his pops, and why LeBron really wants that to happen. It’s just… unless it’s in the G League, which I don’t think dad would allow or stoop to, I don’t know how much Bronny will actually play. Maybe they share the floor during garbage time, and we get a still cool son-to-father alley-oop. Judging by his social media presence, I’m sure Bronny would excel at bench celebrations.
That said, I’d be more entertained if the age limit remains intact (at least for a little bit longer), so Bronny has to spend a year actually playing basketball at one of those blue blood programs. I mean NBA Twitter has invested enough energy into his career that they deserve to see how good he really is before being relegated to a puff piece in warmups.
And if I’m Bronny, I’d like to find out how much of my basketball success is a product of my own hard work, too.