Bronny James was drafted by Lakers. He’s a nepo-baby. And?

After Bronny James was drafted by the Lakers, putting him on the same team as his dad (maybe you’ve heard of him), an ESPN insider said something that resonated with me. It was in response to the uproar about LeBron, Bronny and nepotism. I didn’t understand why there was so much uproar about it when nepotism is the NBA way. When it’s the American way. This insider put it all in perfect perspective.

‘I don’t want to hear these charges, people talking about nepotism. The NBA is full of nepotism,’ Adrian Wojnarowski said. ‘The ownership level, front offices, coaching. I don’t want to hear it all of a sudden because Bronny James’ father plays for the Lakers. It is rampant in this league.’

It’s rampant not just in the NBA. It is rampant everywhere.

Nepotism is a mechanism mainly for the powerful and has been for centuries. It’s almost canon. It’s also not just the super rich. A middle class dad gets his son a job in the company where he works. The 2010 U.S. census outlined just how extensive nepotism is in the country. It said that 22% of men whose fathers were present in their teenage years will work for the same employer simultaneously as their fathers. 

There isn’t a part of society where you don’t see it. Donald Trump’s administration was full of family members and lackeys. He took nepotism to levels no one has ever seen and likely will ever again. The NFL is rife with nepotism. There are enough Belichicks to fill an NFL coaching staff. Sports broadcasting overflows with it. There’s nepotism in officiating.

It’s all over sports. Shedeur Sanders plays for his father, Deion, at Colorado. Austin Rivers played for his father, Doc, while both were with the Los Angeles Clippers.

USA TODAY Sports’ NFL Coaches Project examined nepotism in the league. In 2022, 12 of the 34 NFL head coaches (including two interim coaches) were related to current or former ones. Of the 717 on-field coaches that season, at least 93 (13%) had a father, son or brother who was a current or former NFL coach. 

The Bronny specific criticism is this level of nepotism is different because he’s going to get a roster spot because of his dad. That kind of parsing is just silly. Nepotism is nepotism. There’s nothing different about this than Cowboys owner Jerry Jones having several of his kids working in the team’s front office. The James family is actually using a low-grade form of nepotism. Compared to some of the other forms of it, this is nothing.

In fact, what’s unusual about the James situation is that you don’t normally see people of color taking advantage of nepotism. Historically we haven’t had the resources to do it. This isn’t to say it’s never existed. It’s just rare. In the NFL, for example, according to USA TODAY Sports’ research for the NFL Coaches Project, just 5.4% of coaches of color had family connections.

‘We live in a country where nepotism has taken place with white folks religiously forever. We’ve said little to nothing about it,’ said ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. ‘In the NBA specifically, in a league where at least 70% of the players are Black, we’ve seen nepotism with white folks all over the place … and now this happens with LeBron James, a member of the Mount Rushmore of basketball, and all of a sudden you’ve got people running their mouths.’

This isn’t a defense of nepotism. Nepotism can be problematic (same with bosses hiring their buddies). One of the biggest issues is it demolishes any chance of diversifying the workforce.

It’s just comical, almost weirdly so, why the James family engaging in it has led to such an uproar.

There’s also the fact that with Bronny, he’s not a totally unqualified kid. Bronny has been preparing for this moment his entire life. Is he good enough to be on the Lakers? We don’t know yet. What we do know is that like his dad basketball has been his life.

There are stirring photos of Bronny and his father in gyms and at games at various stages of Bronny growing up. This is one of the more amazing father-and-son stories you will ever see.

It’s not a perfect situation. The biggest problem is less about nepotism and more about the pressure Bronny will feel carrying the James name while being on the same team as his father. This situation is unprecedented and who knows how it will impact that family.

Austin Rivers, in June, spoke about that challenge. ‘I hope for the kid that he can not only play in the NBA, but play somewhere where he can (carve) out his own identity,’ Rivers said. ‘His name’s already Bronny. Everything we talk about him goes back to his dad. He plays at USC and his dad plays down the street for the Lakers. It’s just an insane situation. I’m a fan of Bronny, but I hope he goes somewhere else, I really do.’

As for the nepotism? This is far from catastrophic.

That’s because it’s very American.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY