Home » USC freshman Bronny James, son of NBA star LeBron James, expected to play in first game Sunday

USC freshman Bronny James, son of NBA star LeBron James, expected to play in first game Sunday

USC star freshman Bronny James, the oldest son of Lakers star LeBron James, is expected to play in his first game Sunday, Trojans coach Andy Enfield told reporters Thursday after he participated in a full-contact practice after going into cardiac arrest during a preseason workout July 24.

James was a limited participant during USC’s earlier practice this week  and could get full clearance Friday to play in USC’s next game.

“All indications are he feels great, and he looks good,” Enfield said Thursday.

USC is off to a 5-3 start this season without James heading into Sunday’s home game vs. Long Beach State, but will likely face a restriction on how many minutes he will play

“Everybody’s excited to see Bronny on the court,” Enfield said earlier this week. “The fans, teammates, everybody around our program and university. Bronny’s done a great job of mentally and physically getting back to this point and I think he’s very anxious to get back full-time playing. We’re excited to watch him play.”

James’ return to practice came after he was cleared by USC doctors a few days after he was cleared by his own doctors late last week. 

“Bronny James is now cleared by his doctors for a full return to basketball,” a James family spokesperson said in a statement. “Bronny will have a final evaluation with USC staff this week, resume practice next week, and return to games soon after. The James family would like to express their gratitude to the incredible medical team, the entire USC community, and especially the countless friends, family, and fans for their love and support. Fight On!”

James was hospitalized in July after going into cardiac arrest during a summer workout with the Trojans. In August, doctors determined a congenital heart defect was the cause of the cardiac episode.

“After a comprehensive initial evaluation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center led by Dr. Merije Chukumerije and follow-up evaluations at the Mayo Clinic led by Dr. Michael J. Ackerman and Atlantic Health/Morristown Medical Center led by Dr. Matthew W. Martinez, the probable cause of Mr. James’ sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) has been identified,” the family said in a statement obtained by CBS Sports. “It is an anatomically and functionally significant Congenital Heart Defect which can and will be treated.”

James is considered the perfect role player for the Trojans that can complement Boogie Ellis and Isaiah Collier in the backcourt because of his high basketball IQ and his willingness to be unselfish. James is very active on the defensive end and he is the kind of player that can impact winning when the game matters come March.

Where is Bronny’s NBA Draft stock?

Before James suffered a health scare over the summer that put his playing career potentially in doubt, he was viewed as a late-lottery/early first-round NBA Draft selection in various mock drafts by CBS Sports. In Kyle Boone’s latest mock draft earlier this week, James was not tabbed as a first-round selection. 

There are many factors in play when looking at his draft stock going forward. The first and most obvious one is how will he look on the basketball court? The reason why James was considered a potential first-round pick in the first place is because his play style fits the modern NBA game. James is active on the defensive end and has a high basketball IQ. Both translate to the next level. 

The other factor in his draft stock is his last name. His father, LeBron James, has expressed numerous times over the years about his desire to play with his son in the NBA. The elder James signed a 2-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers last summer that runs through the 2024-25 campaign. It’s possible a team could be enticed to select the younger James if they knew his father would make his way to that respective team. 

James will certainly be a candidate to be a one-and-done prospect after this season if he returns and plays well. The Trojans are considered one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 title and a strong showing during the final four months of the season will only help his draft stock going forward. After all, the 2024 draft class isn’t viewed to be as strong at the top as last year, so there’s a chance that players like James can sneak up draft boards come next summer.

Cardiac arrest among college basketball players

Unfortunately, James wasn’t even the first member of the USC basketball program to go into cardiac arrest during a team practice. USC big man Vincent Iwuchukwu suffered a cardiac arrest incident last summer and missed the first 16 games of the 2022-23 season because of it. James so far this season has missed USC’s first seven games.

In late 2020, Florida wing Keyontae Johnson suffered what was then the most well-known case of a cardiac event at the college level in recent memory. Johnson, then a projected first round pick, collapsed on the court during a game vs. Florida State. He was later diagnosed with sudden cardiac arrest. Johnson did not play the remainder of the season and missed all of the 2021-22 season before returning to the court for Kansas State last season.

Former Baylor star Jared Butler was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest in the U.S., when he was 18 years old and preparing to start his college career. Butler went on to be an All-American, though his condition was flagged during the NBA Draft process, causing him to slip to the No. 40 pick in 2021.

CBS Sports NBA Draft Expert Kyle Boone contributed to this report