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Bronny James Is Cleared by N.B.A. Medical Panel

SportBronny James Is Cleared by N.B.A. Medical Panel

By Shams Charania, Lukas Weese and Sam Vecenie

Bronny James, the son of NBA superstar LeBron James, is expected to stay in the 2024 NBA Draft, league sources said.

James, who suffered a cardiac arrest last July before returning to the court for his freshman season at USC, has been fully cleared to play by the NBA’s Fitness to Play Panel and will participate in all pre-draft activities, beginning with the NBA Draft Combine this week.

While not considered a top prospect — James was not included in The Athletic’s post-lottery mock draft Sunday — his surname and journey back to the court following a serious health scare make him one of the most notable players in this year’s draft class.

There’s also the added intrigue of whether James and his father could become teammates. LeBron has expressed a desire to end his career playing alongside his son.

The younger James collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest during a USC team workout in July. A family spokesperson said a congenital heart defect caused the incident. Doctors cleared him to return to practice four months later, and he made his college debut on Dec. 10 against Long Beach State. He appeared in USC’s final 25 games, starting six and averaging 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 19.3 minutes.

Questions surrounding his future accelerated when his college coach at USC, Andy Enfield, left for the head-coaching vacancy at SMU in March.

James, 19, declared for the NBA Draft on April 5. He also entered the transfer portal to maintain flexibility as he worked out for NBA teams.

Following the USC coaching change, LeBron said that Bronny had “some tough decisions to make” regarding his future.

“At the end of the day, Bronny’s his own man,” LeBron said in April.

The younger James’ decision comes ahead of a big one for his father, who has to decide whether to opt into his $51.4 million player option for 2024-25 by June 29. Team sources said last month the Lakers are open to the prospect of helping LeBron fulfill his dream of playing with his son by potentially drafting him.

LeBron declined to answer a question about whether he played his final game as a Laker after Los Angeles was eliminated in five games by the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The NBA Draft takes place June 26-27.

Bronny projects as a 3-and-D guard who plays hard, makes good decisions on offense, does the little things, passes well, leads the fast break off defensive rebounds, fills transition lanes and attacks the rim when he gets a chance. He is a terrific defensive player who fights at the point of attack and has the length and foot speed to stick with most guards.

James’ offense is a work in progress. He struggled to generate any half-court paint touches this year and isn’t much of a pull-up shooter yet. He made only 27 percent of his 3s last season, though he looked more confident taking them at USC and has more shooting talent than his percentage shows. — Sam Vecenie, NBA Draft writer

Do Bronny’s measurements at the combine matter?

We finally got confirmation on how big James is exactly. He measured at 6-foot-1 1/2 without shoes with a 6-7 1/4 wingspan and an 8-2 1/2 standing reach Monday. That’s much smaller than the 6-4 height at which he was listed while playing for USC, but it’s important to remember that colleges list players’ heights in shoes. While the Trojans added an extra inch to Bronny’s height, they didn’t drastically oversell it. On top of that, NBA teams were working under the assumption that James was in the ballpark of 6-2 anyway.

James’ standing reach puts him much more in the ballpark of point guard as opposed to that of a combo or shooting guard. Past players to post an 8-2 1/2 standing reach at the combine include Bruce Brown, Collin Sexton, Terry Rozier and Avery Bradley. James is a bit stronger and stouter than most of those players. — Vecenie

How much does shooting-drill showing help him?

James’ success during a shooting drill Monday does serve as a reminder for evaluators that James has potential to shoot the ball despite his percentages. Having said that, as I wrote about a month ago, “He showed much more shooting potential as a high-school player than he did in college. There is nothing inherently wrong with his mechanics. Perhaps he was out of rhythm after not being cleared to play during the offseason.”

NBA teams have not gone into this process believing that James is unable to shoot the basketball. That’s the part of his offensive game they actually have the most confidence in translating. Additionally, these shots are just a drop in the bucket. Any of the hundreds of scouts and executives who were at Nike Hoop Summit last year saw James shoot a sample that was a multiple many times over of the number he took at the combine. And of course, the shots he took at game speed this past season are still the ones that matter most. While this might have shifted a couple of minds, I don’t know that it moved the needle all that much. — Vecenie

What about his vertical leap?

It’s nice to confirm what people already thought, but again, evaluators were working under the assumption that James would test exceedingly well athletically. This one probably did not move the needle much for James positively, but confirming pre-conceived notions is valuable. — Vecenie

(Photo: Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


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