Bronnie James was simply focused on ‘getting into the league’

CHICAGO — As Bronie James leaned back in his chair and surveyed the crowd of media members who surrounded him at Tuesday night’s NBA draft combine, he acknowledged the extra attention being the son of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. “A lot sometimes.”

Still, the 19-year-old USC guard reiterated Tuesday that his goal is to play in the NBA, not necessarily on the same team as his father.

“I’d be excited to be in the league instead of thinking about playing with my dad,” Bronie James said Tuesday evening. “It’s not my mood or not. I’m just trying to put in the work and see where it takes me.”

James said he was in touch with his father this week, who checked in with words of encouragement. But even though the two share the same name, James said Tuesday that he’s focused on making his own name.

He downplays comparisons to offense starters around the NBA, instead comparing his game to players like the Boston Celtics’ Jrue Holiday and Derrick White or the Sacramento Kings’ Davion Mitchell.

“Brony was a nickname I was given when I was younger,” James said. “But with everything that follows my dad, people try to associate me with it and all the greatness that he’s achieved. I’ve never done anything, so I feel like there’s got to be that divide between Brony and LeBron.

“Everybody’s heard it before. I want people to know my name is Brony James and not just be recognized as LeBron James’ son. I think that’s going to be great.”

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After being cleared to participate this week by an NBA team following a cardiac arrest nine months ago and a procedure to repair a congenital heart defect, James got a chance to separate himself.

James put up a fight with other draft prospects on Tuesday, scoring four points (2-for-8 shooting on field goals) and grabbing four rebounds in 19 minutes. It didn’t sustain the momentum James created on the opening night of the combine, which included knocking down 19 of 25 shots from 3 and registering a 40-inch vertical.

“My job is to play a role and play the right way, make sure I get my teammates involved and things like that,” James said. “But again, I was very grateful for the opportunity to be out there. I felt like I needed to be out there.”

James used the word “grateful” several times throughout his media session Tuesday, emphasizing that he was grateful to be on the court considering there was a time after his diagnosis when he wasn’t sure if he would be able to play again.

“It’s definitely a tough time,” James said. “But all this work I did made me into someone who never gave up, and it paid off. After that situation I did the work and got back to where I wanted to be.”

While James averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists, he admitted the heart issues impacted his freshman season at USC. Although he has been cleared to play, James said he still has some lingering doubts from the aftermath of the issue.

“I feel my parents were a big factor in believing in me and giving me the love and affection I needed at that time,” she said. “I still think about everything that could happen, but I love the game so much that it will get me through.”

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James retained his college eligibility and declared for the June 26-27 draft and has until May 29 to decide whether to remain in the draft or return to college, where he has decided to explore the transfer portal.

James said he will take some time to weigh his options before making a final decision.

“A lot of thinking, a lot of alone time and where I want to be, where my heart thinks I should be,” James said.

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