Stephen A. Smith Bronny James LeBron James First Take Screen grab: ‘First Take

Monday appeared to be somewhat of inflection point when it comes to the coverage of Bronny James as an NBA prospect.

With Jonathan Givony releasing his 2025 mock draft, many took note that the ESPN NBA Draft analyst included James — implying that the USC guard won’t be declaring for this year’s draft. Never mind that Givony hasn’t included James in any of his previous 2024 mock drafts since he suffered cardiac arrest as the result of a congenital heart defect last summer. For whatever reason, this seemed to be the point where the idea of LeBron James’ son not being in the 2024 NBA Draft was first considered by many.

Taking to X (formerly Twitter), the elder James responded to what he apparently perceived to be a slight to his 19-year-old son.

“Can yall please just let the kid be a kid and enjoy college basketball,” James wrote on X/Twitter. “The work and results will ultimately do the talking no matter what he decides to do. If y’all don’t know he doesn’t care what a mock draft says, he just WORKS! Earned Not Given!

“And to all the other kids out there striving to be great just keep your head down, blinders on and keep grinding,” he added in a subsequent post. “These Mock Drafts doesn’t matter one bit! I promise you! Only the WORK MATTERS!! Let’s talk REAL BASKETBALL PEOPLE!”

The 4-time NBA MVP deleted the posts. But as the old saying goes, screenshots live forever.


Discussing the matter on First Take on Tuesday, Stephen A. Smith offered extensive praise for James, his role as a father and the rest of his family. But when it comes to this particular matter, the ESPN host said that the Los Angeles Lakers superstar has nobody to blame but himself.

“When we get to Bronny James, that kid has done nothing. The kid has done nothing but work hard, try to get on his game and all this other stuff,” Smith said. “Any attention that he’s warranted has been because of his daddy — ‘I want to play with my son. I want to stay here until my son gets to the NBA.’

“There’s no crime in that whatsoever. You can want that. But when you’re LeBron James and you put the word out that you want to be with him. And you put the word out that you want to play with him. And you put the word out that you’d be willing to go to any NBA team that picks him up, knowing the power of LeBron James, how influential he can be, now you’ve got to wonder what team would draft Bronny James just so they can get LeBron James.

“You’re gonna tweet about folks needing to leave your son alone? You did that. LeBron is entirely and completely culpable for any kind of critique coming in Bronny’s direction at this juncture.”

Shannon Sharpe — who previously questioned the target James was putting on his son with his comments — noted that it was just last year that James publicly posted his belief that his son is already better than some current NBA players.

“It’s the same thing that we did with LaVar Ball when LaVar Ball said his son Lonzo was better than Steph Curry,” Sharpe said. “When you do that, people are always looking. ‘See, I told you. I thought you said he was all this.'”

To Smith and Sharpe’s points, James has been openly talking about the possibility of playing alongside Bronny in the NBA since 2018 — before the younger James was even in high school. Over the years, the 4-time NBA champion has reiterated his desire to play alongside his older son on multiple occasions, even linking his future free agency decision to whichever team drafts him.

“Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be,” James told The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd during the All-Star break in 2022. “I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”

While Bronny is an impressive player in his own right, he’s not necessarily the type of prospect who projects surefire first-round pick. But considering his father’s previous comments, the general consensus has seemingly been that he would declare for the draft following his freshman season — and would likely be drafted by a team also looking to lure his father.

But as Bronny’s freshman season has continued — he’s averaged 5.5 points while appearing in 19 games — that thinking has seemingly changed. And it’s certainly worth noting that most of James’ comments regarding Bronny’s NBA future came before last summer’s health scare.

Perhaps Bronny will still declare and get drafted this year or maybe Givony is on the right track. Either way, if James wants to know why there has been so much attention on his son as an NBA prospect, he only needs to look in the mirror.

[Awful Announcing on X]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.