Bronny James won’t be going to USC this fall to become more employable and lift his family out of poverty. He probably won’t stay long enough to graduate either.
That didn’t stop his billionaire father, LeBron James, from being proud of it his son’s decision to be the first in the “James gang” to go to college, if only for a year or two, before turning pro.
After The Lakers won Game 3 Speaking about the Golden State Warriors in the NBA playoffs on Saturday night, LeBron gushed about his son.
“It’s an incredible thing,” he said. “Unless it was one of my great-grandmothers or great-grandfathers who predated my time, this is the first of the James gang to go to college that I know of. Apparently his father didn’t go to school, his mother didn’t go to college. I think my mom might have gone to campus a bit, community college or something, but she let my little ass roam around, so she couldn’t spend much time in the classroom. She was 19 and I was 3.
“So it’s very, very exciting, very humbling and a great moment for our family.”
LeBron’s pride was clearly genuine. And no one can blame Bronny for choosing USC over spending next year in the G League or on a professional team overseas.
There’s also no denying that Bronny’s circumstances are vastly different from those of 99.9% of high school athletes, or students in general, whose parents didn’t go to college. Forbes recently calculated LeBron’s net worth than over $1 billion.
A 2019 NCAA study found that 16% of student athletes are first-generation college students (defined as having no parent who went to college). Soccer (25%) has the highest percentage of such students, and 26% of students from a racial/ethnic minority group report being first-generation college students, compared to 14% of white students.
Financing their education is often an issue for first-generation students. More than half worry that finances will prevent them from earning a degree, while only about a third of other physical education students feel the same way.
The study also showed that parents of first-generation student athletes are more likely to have inflated expectations of their child becoming a professional or Olympic athlete. While only 12% of parents who went to college feel this way about their child, 26% of first-generation students said their parents expected them to become professionals at some point since they were young.
Presumably Bronny could do something with it. LeBron has often spoken about playing on the same court with his son one day, the played at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon High but is not considered an inevitable NBA prospect.
LeBron mentioned it again Saturday night, although it sounded more like his own motivation might be the main obstacle.
“I’m still serious,” he said. “Obviously I need to keep my body and mind fresh. I think my mind is the most important thing, if my mind goes my body will just say, ‘OK, what do we do?'”
LeBron signed a two-year, $97 million extension that keeps him with the Lakers through the 2024-25 season, which could be Bronny’s NBA rookie year if he leaves USC after one season.
In other words, playing together is possible. For now, LeBron seemed to be gathering himself and made it clear that Bronny shouldn’t feel it was up to him to make his father’s dream a reality.
“My son is going to start his journey, whatever his journey is, whatever his journey is, he’s going to do what’s best for him,” LeBron said. “Just because it’s my aspiration and my goal doesn’t mean it’s his. I absolutely agree with that. My job is to support my son in whatever he wants to do.”
LeBron stepped in in 2003 NBA draft out of high school two years before the league raised the minimum age. He was No. 1 overall pick and earned millions in endorsements before stepping on the court. He didn’t need college.
But the pride and joy he expressed at Bronny attending USC mirrored that of countless parents when their son or daughter achieves something they never did. As it turns out, college has always been important to LeBron James.