Bronny James must earn his spot with Lakers, but don’t question his heart

NEW YORK – Heart.

That’s what Bronny James’ selection in the second round of the NBA draft Thursday is about.

James’ physical heart, the one that sustained a sudden cardiac arrest 11 months ago while he worked out on Southern California’s campus.

And his metaphorical heart, the one that helped him get back on the basketball court and in position to be drafted after a life-threatening incident required a procedure to fix his congenital heart defect.

And our hearts, the hardened ones that can’t find the joy in a young adult reaching his dreams, and the warm hearts that can.

The Los Angeles Lakers selected James with the No. 55 pick in the second round of Thursday’s NBA draft, and Bronny will join his dad on the same team in an NBA first. Bronny, 19, is the oldest son of NBA superstar LeBron James, and they will become the first father-son combo to play in the league at the same time.

“My dream has always just been to put my name out, make a name for myself, and of course, you know, get to the NBA,” Bronny told reporters at the draft combine in Chicago in May.

Almost a year ago, Bronny’s basketball future was unclear after he survived the sudden cardiac arrest. Luckily for him, the heart defect could be repaired, allowing him to continue his basketball career.

Before the health scare, Bronny was moving up draft boards during his senior season of high school and during the summer. Some mock drafts had him as a first-rounder a year ago.

But after the cardiac arrest, his development was halted. He couldn’t play until cleared by doctors, and while his freshman season wasn’t derailed completely, it wasn’t a perfect year. He struggled at times and his stats didn’t stand out. At the combine, Bronny acknowledged the incident is ‘still lingering’ and he thinks about ‘everything that could happen.’

But he worked and made enough of an impression on scouts and executives that he left the draft combine as a potential second-round pick – a player with defensive skills, offensive upside, work ethic and coachability.

And now he gets to join his dad on the Lakers. It’s a cool, unique story even in a league where sons of ex-NBA players becoming NBA players is not unusual. But in the league at the same time? It’s a testament to LeBron’s amazing longevity at an elite level and his son’s ability to work for what he wanted.

It’s not the way Bronny thought it would go. But we don’t always get to choose how life unfolds. We do choose how to respond to what comes our way.

This is also another beginning to Bronny’s basketball career. Being LeBron’s son who plays basketball comes with advantages and disadvantages, and the family has undoubtedly had those discussions.

The NBA is meritocracy on the court. He’s just like any other rookie who was drafted in the second round. Bronny needs to earn his spot and his minutes. But you won’t be able to question his heart.

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