Bronny James Taken By Lakers With 55th Pick In NBA Draft

(AP) It was the dream that LeBron James first floated a few years ago, the notion of playing in the NBA alongside one of his sons.

And it’s a step closer to reality now.

Bronny James — the oldest son of the NBA’s all-time scoring leader and four-time champion — was drafted Thursday by the Los Angeles Lakers, the team that his father has played for since 2018. Bronny James was taken with the No. 55 overall pick, deep in the second round and with only three picks remaining in this year’s draft.

“Beyond blessed,” Bronny James wrote in an Instagram post.

Adding further intrigue to the move: LeBron James can become a free agent next week, which means he could choose to leave the Lakers and sign elsewhere.

“In the history of the NBA, there’s never been a father and a son that have shared an NBA basketball court and that feels like something that could be magical,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said. “We know, and have to respect of course, that LeBron has a decision on his opt-out ... but if it worked out that he was on our team next season, NBA history could be made. And NBA history should be made in a Lakers uniform.”

The draft move doesn’t guarantee that father and son will actually play in a game together, nor does it even guarantee that Bronny James will be on the Lakers’ roster next season. But it certainly raises the possibility that it could happen in what would be an NBA first — a father-son on-court duo in the league simultaneously as players. There have been about 100 instances in NBA history of players joining the league after their fathers played, but those always came at least five years after the father’s career ended.

But LeBron James’ incredible longevity — he’ll match Vince Carter for the longest career as an NBA player ever this coming season, which will be his 22nd in the league — makes the father-son duo possible.

“With the 55th pick in the 2024 NBA draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select Bronny James from the University of Southern California,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in announcing the pick, making the moment official for the 19-year-old, who was born just before the start of his father’s second NBA season.

It’s possible that Bronny James’ debut in a Lakers uniform could be July 12 in Las Vegas, in the franchise’s summer league opener against the Houston Rockets.

Bronny James is a guard, one who was listed at 6-foot-4 on Southern California’s roster but measured at 6 feet, 1 1/2 inches at the draft combine. That would make him one of the shortest players in the NBA, but his athleticism and defensive ability helped give him this opportunity.

“Bronny is, first and foremost, a person of high character,” Pelinka said. “And second, he is a young man that works incredibly hard. Those are the qualities we look for in drafting players and adding to our developmental corps at the Lakers.”

There will be cries of nepotism, cries that the Lakers did this only because of who LeBron James is. But Pelinka insisted that the Lakers will have a plan for Bronny James’ development, that the organization sees his potential and that he personally has been impressed with the character Bronny James showed while growing up.

Pelinka and the Lakers staff, including newly hired coach J.J. Redick, made the call to Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul before the pick was made and were able to speak with Bronny James moments before the selection was officially official.

“Coach Redick and I were able to welcome him to the Lakers family and let him know that this moment was happening mostly because of the work he’s put into the game and because of the character young man that he is,” Pelinka said. “That was what was expressed to him on the phone call.”

Bronny James played one year of college basketball at USC and averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game last season. He played in 25 games, missing the start of the season after needing a procedure last year to fix what was diagnosed as a congenital heart defect, which was found after he went into cardiac arrest during a summer workout.

A panel of doctors cleared Bronny James for NBA play last month.

Nike, the shoe giant that LeBron James has had a business relationship with through the entirety of his NBA career, wasted no time in congratulating Bronny James by releasing a new ad — “The journey continues. Welcome to the big stage, Bronny,” the company wrote.

Day 2 of the draft saw 24 other players get taken before Bronny James, though none of them — not even close, really — got the attention that the No. 55 selection received, for obvious reasons.

The 55th pick rarely turns out to be a player who captures a slew of attention. The best 55th pick in NBA history would be current Miami Heat guard Patty Mills, selected in 2009 and someone who has scored 7,893 points in his 15-season career.

Some other notable No. 55 picks include Marc Iavaroni, Mark Blount, Kenny Gattison and E’Twaun Moore. There’s never been a No. 55 pick that was an NBA All-Star, an All-NBA player, an All-Rookie team player or an All-Defensive team pick.

Last season’s No. 55 pick, Isaiah Wong, scored exactly two points for Indiana as a rookie. Add up every No. 55 pick ever, and their NBA career scoring total is 28,364 points — more than 12,000 points less than LeBron James has scored in his career.

“The biggest moments in sports happen with the Lakers,” Pelinka said. “That’s how we’re built and we’re excited to see this story unfold.”

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