Bronny James
LeBron’s first born son, Bronny James, has been in the limelight since his middle school AAU days. But how good is he really? (Jay LaPrete, AP)

How Good is Bronny James?

LeBron’s firstborn has been in the limelight ever since his middle school days on the AAU circuit with North Coast Blue Chips. Of course, the spotlight was always going to be warranted. He’s the son of, arguably, the second greatest basketball player to ever grace the planet – maybe the best. His dad has won championships in three different cities, and when, inevitably, LeBron Raymone “Bronny” James Jr. was going to pick up a basketball, the cameras were sure to follow. And follow they did.

Because his dad’s greatness is rivaled by few, the comparisons are sure to be made. Is the playmaking there? The high-flying athleticism? The back you down, fadeaway jumper that put the league on notice? Where is he similar to his father and where does he differ?

Ultimately, how good is Bronny James?

Some Context and the Eye Test

He’s good. He’s better at basketball than every single one of the writers on this website. I can tell you that much. He’s 16 years old, stands between 6’2″ to 6’4″ depending on which website you look at, and weighs in at 176 pounds. So, he’s six to seven inches shorter and around 75 pounds lighter than his dad. He’s honestly more physically similar to his dad’s 2010s foe Stephen Curry than the man who is his namesake.

Most of Bronny’s highlights come from his freshman year at Sierra Canyon during the 2019-20 high school basketball season – he just returned from knee surgery in February. That team was absolutely loaded with talent. The squad boasted Kentucky one-and-done B.J. Boston – go check out Karl Heiser’s scouting report on Boston – Stanford super freshman Ziaire Williams, and the #3 ranked player in the class of 2022, according to ESPN, Amari Bailey. There was no shortage of talent on the roster, and Bronny found himself coming off the bench, typically as the sixth man.

He displays good athleticism for a guard his size. He comfortably flies to the rim in the same way his dad did in his days at St. Vincent St. Mary’s. He also shoots the ball well. He won’t scorch you with 10 threes in a game, but the mechanics are solid. He’s a good ball-handler, not a great one, but at his age, there’s still certainly time to improve.

It’s hard to analyze every aspect of his game because most of his highlights A) come from a year ago and B) come from a team’s playing style that is very transition-driven, with fewer one-on-one matchups to look at, but let’s get into it.

Strengths: Age, Athleticism, Shooting, Attacking, and Defense

He’s a sophomore in high school. Granted, he’s missed most of this year because of the torn meniscus, but he’s at the age where most teenagers are getting behind the wheel of a car on their own. He’s behind the wheel of basketball’s royal family. Short story shorter, there’s a lot of time to improve.

His athleticism is really impressive. It shouldn’t come as a shock given his parentage, but he attacks the rim with ferocity. Bronny’s ability to explode from outside the paint and finish above opponents is similar to his father’s. He’s just as explosive in transition, where he was both the facilitator and recipient of back door lobs. His first step is also another asset.

He did well spreading the floor for the Mustangs, and when defenders were running at him, rather than closing out, he had the presence of mind to pump fake, blow by, and go into a 10-foot floater. The Banana Boat Crew clearly rubbed off on him because the floater and mid-range jumper that has made Chris Paul who he is, has found its way into Bronny’s repertoire.

Bronny James is also a much better shooter than his dad. Although the mechanics have the ball in front of his head when he shoots, the release point is high, and he gets it off quickly. Creating his own shot should be a priority for him in the coming years, but as a stand-alone catch-and-shoot guard, he’s really good.

Finally, his defense. There are only three clips in the 9:14 video of Bronny’s freshman year, but he appeared to guard the ball well. He still fell victim to the explosive steps and back door cuts of players his senior, but he has quick hands and feet. He’s willing to get up and guard anywhere on the floor, regardless of how far it is from the basket. And even when he’s on that island, his reaction time and first step allow him to cut his man off, rather than having to chase them. It’s an area where he can improve, but he’s good enough right now.

Question Marks: Name, Lack of Offensive Initiation, Playmaking and Left Hand

I’m hesitant to call this section “weaknesses” because the basketball world doesn’t have a ton to work with beyond Bronny having been a 15-year-old playing with some of the best high school seniors on the planet. Of course, he was bound to float in-and-out of some games, but that’s to be expected at his age. He fit in well as the sixth man for a squad that didn’t need another alpha but rather a guy that could fill their role, get a few buckets a game and defend.

Bronny James has yet to come into the role of that go-to guy, and because of that, the small sample size of his own playmaking is limited. He shows good IQ in knowing when to choose his spots, and he doesn’t seem to force a ton of shots, instead letting the game come to him. That’s a phenomenal skill to have.

He did well in transition, as I said, but he was not the primary ball-handler for Sierra Canyon, so his playmaking was limited to what he could do off the bounce. He displayed glimpses of good facilitating as he found Boston and Bailey on pick-and-rolls and dives to the rim. I’d like to see him grow in this department because this is the one area where he can truly separate himself from his peers. He’s got the intangibles and IQ. It’s time to put it to use.

This may be an oversimplification, but I’d like to see Bronny use his off-hand more. He almost became too heavily reliant on his right, with most of his positioning coming on the right-wing and corner. Developing into a combo guard that can use both hands when not only attacking the rim but facilitating too, can make him into a scary matchup for any team.

And the last question mark is his name. He won’t be able to avoid the questions or comparisons. He certainly won’t avoid the cameras. I just wonder if it ever becomes too much of a problem. The weight of being LeBron James’ firstborn son. The kid expected to build upon the legacy of “The King.” With the joys of celebrity status come the pitfalls as well. People will be there for his successes and will be just as quick to jump on him when he falls. I just hope that the name of basketball’s royal family isn’t too much for him because he’s got a bright future in this game.

He may be the eldest child of the “Chosen One” and the heir-apparent to the empire, but right now, he’s just Bronny: A 16-year-old kid trying to make a dream a reality.

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