Nobody can blame LeBron James for looking to the future. The Lakers stood pat at the deadline despite looking more like a play-in team than a contender, and Anthony Davis is collecting worker’s comp checks after severely spraining his ankle in their final game before the All-Star break.
Speaking with The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd, James touched on his post-Lakers future that gave a blueprint for his post-Lakers future. While he was effusive in his praise of the Cavaliers, it was the prospect of playing with his son where LeBron was most direct.
“My last year will be played with my son.” LeBron told Lloyd. “Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”
LeBron’s wanderlust always has him on the move. More importantly, though, LeBron is always looking out for his people. His St. Vincent-St.Mary teammates were such a familial bond that he made a former teammate, Maverick Carter, his business manager. Another close consigliere, Rich Paul, runs Bron’s sports agency. They’ve become titans on their own accord thanks to James extending them integral roles to play in managing his career. He’s also putting himself and Bronny in an incredibly unique position. His declaration made Bronny even more of a made man in NBA circles.
We shouldn’t be surprised that he’s putting Bronny on the same way while putting NBA GMs on notice. LeBron has never been this straightforward about his future.
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Bronny’s matriculation through the amateur basketball ranks has been a source of intrigue for an increasingly plugged-in diehard basketball public. Now, a junior at Sierra Canyon High School, the future we’ve envisioned for Bronny is just over the horizon. The fantasy of Bron and Bronny has been bubbling up in imaginations since he was in elementary school. Now, LeBron can almost touch it. Earlier this season, James faced Grizzlies rookie Ziaire Williams, an ex-teammate of Bronny during his freshman year at Sierra Canyon.
“I looked at Ziaire a couple times and was just shaking my head inside,” James told reporters in October. “Just remembering a year and a half ago, two years, not even a full two years, he was hitting a game-winner to send them to the state championship alongside my son, and going to the game and supporting Sierra Canyon, and one year at Stanford and now he’s here, so it’s a weird dynamic for myself to see something like that but happy for the kid, obviously. But I had a moment for sure.”
LeBron has managed to stave off the cliff that aging superstars’ skills nosedive off of in their mid-30s by spending millions on his body and showing an unwavering commitment to keeping his body in shape. However, he’ll be 40 when Bronny can grace an NBA floor.
That’s a whole different beast. It’s unrealistic to imagine James will be an MVP frontrunner in three years, but he’s no ordinary talent. At the rate LeBron is going, he’ll plateau as a top-10 player, whose presence can swing a Finals contender over the top, the same way Anthony Hopkins can still push a production into Best Picture conversations. There’s also the possibility that some floundering franchise looking to put fans in the stands like the Knicks or Kings will draft Bronny as their golden ticket.
Despite his assurances about playing with Bronny, LeBron has made control over his own future a central tenet of his playing career. It’s unlikely he’ll let the team he plays for during his farewell tour be a decision entirely out of his and Rich Paul’s hands. LeBron’s 2023 decision will be a game of chicken between how far he is willing to go to play with his son and how much teams are willing to reach to sign LeBron.
Right now, the 17-year-old Bronny is a vastly different player than his dad. He doesn’t project as a one-and-done caliber player, he’s not going to approach LeBron’s physically imposing size and, barring a late growth spurt, will be a 6-foot-2 combo guard at the next level.
More than likely, the team that drafts Bronny will be a team that believes it can win now and views him as a Bat-Signal to LeBron. When Bronny does enter the draft, LeBron’s vow will make Bronny’s entrance into the league one of the most complicated scenarios ever seen at the NBA level.
Bronny has yet to establish himself as a surefire prospect past the collegiate level. He’s a role player on Sierra Canyon’s nationally ranked team. But to keep his top-50 ranking, he’ll have to show some progress as a senior leader. Familiar names such as Zaire Wade and Alex Antetokounmpo are working their way through the bowels of the G-League after failing to stand out as top 50 recruits. LeBron’s made sure that Bronny’s career won’t be following the path of Wade or Antetokounmpo.
There are two scenarios for the next two years. Either Bronny has a breakthrough coming during his senior year and goes on to shine at a blue-chip program as a freshman, or he settles into a more modest developmental league prospect at the end of an NBA bench.
It also gives us a legitimate end date for the career of the most covered athletes in NBA history. Bronny’s arrival is LeBron’s finish line. The countdown has begun.