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Lebron James' son Bronny faces a pivotal decision in his basketball career

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Twelve years ago, we had "The Decision."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DECISION")

JIM GRAY: LeBron, what's your decision?

LEBRON JAMES: In this fall, I'm going to take my talents to South Beach.

CHANG: That is LeBron James announcing on national TV that he had chosen to play for the Miami Heat. Well, a dozen years and a few NBA teams later, now, his 18-year-old son, Bronny James, faces a decision. Bronny is a high school senior choosing between college basketball or entering a professional league - so decisions, decisions.

Tobias Bass follows basketball recruiting for The Athletic and will help us look at some of the decisions facing Bronny James right now. Welcome.

TOBIAS BASS: Thank you. Nice to meet you.

CHANG: Nice to meet you. OK, so shocker - LeBron James' oldest son is good at basketball. No way.

BASS: (Laughter).

CHANG: But let me ask you, at this stage, just how good is Bronny?

BASS: He's a good player. I think that he's solid. You saw today, ESPN actually released their final 2023 rankings. He came in at No. 19. He's a good player. I think he defends really well. He's really athletic, shoots the ball well off the catch. I think he's a solid prospect; not great, but solid.

CHANG: OK. Well, in the past, Bronny's famous dad has talked about wanting his son to go the college route, right? So what options does Bronny have in terms of schools?

BASS: In terms of schools, he has USC, Oregon and Ohio State.

CHANG: Those are good options, aren't they? Like, really good...

BASS: They're great options.

CHANG: ...Options (laughter).

BASS: Yeah, great options. I mean, who wouldn't want to play in LA, Oregon with Nike - you have Ohio State, somewhere his dad said he would have played if he'd have went to college.

CHANG: And why does LeBron James want Bronny to go the college route?

BASS: I think that, you know, it's something that he's experienced that, you know, I think LeBron, if he could go back, he probably wish he would had. And, you know, Bronny's been famous forever. I think that you put him in a college setting, he could almost, in some small way, be a normal 18-, 19-year-old kid. I think that he wants that experience for him. And I think it's also the best way to help him develop for his dreams of being an NBA player.

CHANG: Well, of course, LeBron - the elder I'm talking about here - he went straight to the NBA from high school, right? So that's not allowed anymore. Bronny could go to another pro league or the NBA's minor league, the G League. I mean, what do you think? Do you think we could see Bronny turn professional pretty soon rather than go the college route?

BASS: I think the option's on the table. I think that, you know, one way they would kind of try to woo him into doing it would be, you know, giving him a bunch of money and maybe some other incentives. And I think that one thing that people aren't talking about is LeBron has two years left on his contract. So if - Bronny, if he wants to go the professional route, he could sign a two-year deal with the G League or a two-year deal with Overtime Elite, making the timing perfect for when he could play with his dad.

CHANG: Well, let's talk about that. Because Papa LeBron, who's - what? - 38 years old now - he has made no secret that one day he would like to play in the NBA with Bronny. And I'm guessing, like, we've never seen that in the history of the NBA, right?

BASS: Right. Right.

CHANG: I mean, I can't imagine the pressure that Bronny's personally facing now.

BASS: Yeah, I mean, the pressure is definitely on. And you know, a couple weeks ago, LeBron, he said he was watching a couple NBA games, and I believe he tweeted. He was like, there's no way you can't tell me my son isn't better than some of these guys on the floor, you know, talking about the NBA players.

CHANG: Yeah.

BASS: So you can only imagine when he gets there or even in college, they're going to go at him. You know, they're not - you know, yeah, he's LeBron's son, arguably the best player of all time. But they're going to go at them, and they're going to challenge him, probably even play him a little bit harder. 'Cause that's - it's a bold take from dad, but, you know, he's a dad, and I expect him to say those type of things.

CHANG: How much has Bronny talked out loud about, like, how daunting it is to fill his dad's immensely huge shoes?

BASS: I actually haven't seen him talk too much about it, but I think he does a good job soaking it all in. You know, his dad's been his dad forever. You know, he sees him as dad, not as we see him as, you know, LeBron James. So I think that he does a good job soaking it all in.

CHANG: (Laughter) That is Tobias Bass, basketball analyst with The Athletic. Thank you so much.

BASS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kai McNamee
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.