On Saturday, during the 2022 All Star weekend festivities, LeBron James, a top-two basketball player of all time, told reporters, “My last year will be played with my son.” LeBron James is a generational talent, winning four championships with three different teams and making his final season a potential monetary heaven for whatever team is fortunate enough to draft his son, Bronny James. Bronny is listed by 247Sports as the 34th best player in his class, which would make him a second round pick purely by that metric. However, based on what LeBron James said, by drafting his son, the team would essentially also be drafting LeBron James, likely on a minimum contract. This increases Bronny James’ value exponentially, as fans would pack whatever stadium LeBron James is headed to on his farewell tour. Today, staff writers Stratton Stave and Evan Rodriguez debate how much is acceptable to give up for the father-son duo.
Stratton: I’m going to preface this by stating that whatever team gets Bronny James has hit the jackpot financially. That one year where he and his son are together will be magical and unforgettable. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s ask ourselves how much it really makes sense to give up for just one year of LeBron James, who will be turning 40 during that season. The ticket sales will be fantastic. It will be must-see action. But in terms of building a winning team, that won’t actually take you very far. You’ll have a rental in an aging LeBron James for likely just one year. And then you have Bronny James, who is certainly serviceable right now as a high-schooler, but likely won’t be much more than a role player on an NBA team, at best. It’s rare that you see players outside of the top 30 get drafted in the first round and perform well at the NBA level. Jerry Meyer of 247Sports noted, “I expect [Bronny] James to develop into a quality high major player.” Putting short-term money aside, the only thing you get is the hope that Bronny James will be better than the experts project. At this point, it makes little sense to give up the farm for Bronny James, and I’d question taking him with the first pick given the limited long-term benefits.
Evan: I definitely see what you’re looking at here. However, will it really just be one season of Lebron James? Lebron James is extremely different from a player with the average NBA lifespan. Could I see Lebron James playing two to three years potentially with Bronny James? Absolutely. Remember, this is the same person averaging 29 points per game on an average of 36 minutes a game. This is also the same person who routinely spends millions of dollars on his body every season to stay in peak condition. Lebron James could very well still be performing at a great level at that age 40 season. This is all without mentioning the money aspect. On top of those amazing ticket sales, you’re also attracting the leader in NBA jersey sales and an overall jackpot in related NBA merchandise. Then, you bring in Bronny James, a really solid player who definitely has the potential to develop his skills into a major piece on a team. Let’s say you bring in Lebron James and Bronny James: Along with that, a team could definitely look into free agency and pair Lebron James, Bronny James and some other high quality players. Who wouldn’t want to play with Lebron James? You’ve then got a contending lineup that if James continues to play well, Bronny James lives up to the hype and those new additions play to their potential. I can easily see a team in win now mode going for Bronny James to take a shot at a championship.
Stratton: I fully agree with you on your point regarding jersey sales and other stars. The potential that whatever team that draft Bronny James would attract other stars is high. However, I disagree with you on the point about LeBron James’ body. Although he goes through a lot to keep himself in shape, having an NBA body is not easy. Although he’s done well to keep himself in good shape so far, 2024 is a really long time away. His body will become less invincible as he ages and will be more prone to smaller injuries. On top of that, how will the stars that join the team be able to trust that LeBron James will be there for a long time? Maybe you get some quality free agents to sign on for a year or two just to try to win with LeBron James, but the odds are that whatever team is drafting Bronny James will need serious reinforcements to get to the championship level. I think they would be better off not stunting their growth for instant gratification. I would vouch much more toward going for someone like DJ Wagner, who could likely be a piece who could take a team to more significant success long-term, rather than irrationally picking Lebron James, screwing up the franchise for the next decade.
Evan: I’m certainly a fan of Wagner’s game and the long term route may be appealing. However, an NBA team can equally play its cards right to maintain a quality team after James leaves. Additionally, the problem with your statement about the condition of an NBA body is that Lebron James’ physique is nothing compared to what anyone has seen before. No one in NBA history has been able to accomplish what Lebron James has at an elite level. I’m willing to take the chances that in two years, Lebron James will still be a great scorer and have a similar impact on a quality NBA team that includes himself and Bronny James. While Lebron James may not be there for more than two to three years, whichever team can certainly look for additional replacements to assist in the hole that Lebron James leaves behind. If a team can add additional pieces while retaining its current core that includes Bronny James, that would definitely still be a great team, especially if Bronny continues to develop. I’d be willing to take that chance and choose Lebron James, especially if he continues to play at the level he is currently, or at least similarly, playing at. If you’re an NBA team and you play your cards correctly, you can certainly make it work along with the hoards of money that Lebron James brings with him.