The Unrealistic Expectations Surrounding Bronny James Have Already Gone Too Far

LeBron “Bronny” James Jr. is arguably the most famous high school basketball player of all time. Between his heritage, social media, and the fact that he plays for the nation’s top-ranked team (Sierra Canyon), there’s a reason why ESPN will air 15 of his team’s games this season.

However, in sports, great expectations far too often lead to unjust assumptions when it comes to teenagers. And that’s the issue with the “mania” surrounding James, because not only is it unearned, it’s also unfair.

A recent headline from Bleacher Report ridiculed James as it read, “Bronny James, Zaire Wade Combine for 2 Points as Sierra Canyon Beats Duncanville.” The headline targeted James when his teammates should have been the ones receiving praise.

BJ Boston scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Sierra Canyon in their 66-63 win over Duncanville High School, in a game that was played in front of 12,000 inside an NBA arena. Boston is ranked as the No. 9 prospect in the 2020 class and is headed to Kentucky. There was no mention of Boston in the headline, or his teammate Ziaire Williams, who is ranked four spots higher and has offers from Arizona, Duke, and North Carolina.

But the talent for Sierra Canyon doesn’t end there. Terren Frank is also ranked in the ESPN Top-100 for the class of 2020. Amari Bailey is a top-25 recruit in the class of 2022. And Harold Yu is a massive 7’3” recruit in the class of 2021.

There’s a reason why James and Zaire Wade (Dwyane Wade’s son) serve as role players on a team like this. However, none of that seems to be the focus. Role players should never be the ones consistently mentioned in headlines.

For instance, in their last game, James only scored two points. Giving him an average in the single digits, as he scored 10 in the season opener and 3 in Sierra Canyon’s third game of the season. Wade was scoreless and only played four minutes.

People want James to be just like his father, while not understanding that his dad is something we’ve never seen before.

“I gave him a forearm on a fast break. He was cooking. Nobody could guard him. I’m getting embarrassed, he’s embarrassing us,” said Ron Artest on a recent “Knuckleheads Podcast” about playing against Lebron when he was a sophomore in high school. “I laid him on the floor and he gets up and starts cooking more. He was just tough. He was about 225 (pounds) at that time.”

The year prior, LeBron averaged 21 points and 6.2 rebounds to lead his high school team to a 23-1 record and a state title as a freshman.

There’s no way that Bronny could ever live up to that, as he stands 6’2” and weighs nowhere near 225 pounds, as a backup point guard for a preps juggernaut that plays a national schedule.

“As an eighth-grader, [Bronny] was more influential versus his peers [than he is this season],” said ESPN’s National Recruiting Director Paul Biancardi in a recent piece that chronicled James. “To be successful at the varsity level, it takes time and patience. It’s a learning curve to adjust to the physicality of competing against older players, the pace and speed of the game. And Bronny has the pressure of being the son whose father is an iconic figure in the game. I like his approach — he is not rushing the process.”

Earlier this year, we watched as a 15-year-old CoCo Gauff took the sports world by storm due to her performance at Wimbledon. One tournament and some were ready to instantly anoint her as the next face of women’s tennis. Three months later, Gauff won her first singles title at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz.

Patience always pays off.

Some will say that the hype surrounding James, and Wade, comes with the territory, given who their fathers are. But unlike Gauff, James plays a team sport. Meaning that the spotlight isn’t directly on him, as his successes and failures on the court aren’t necessarily something he can always control.

Bronny James is a few games into his high school career and hasn’t even gone to prom yet. Time is on his side to develop. Unfortunately, we live in a world that prefers instant gratification, which is why some people prefer Keurigs over coffee pots.

And if James is ever going to be anywhere as good as his father, we need to let him percolate at his own pace.

Carron J. Phillips, Senior Columnist with The Shadow League, hails from Saginaw, Michigan. In 2016, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. Phillips graduated with honors from Morehouse College in 2006 and received his Masters in 2011 from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.