LeBron James, Basketball Dad

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Although lampooning LeBron James is something of a cottage industry in these parts, there are times one has to step up, be the better, and acknowledge that he is just like one of us. Taller, in far better shape, extremely wealthier, and near infinitely more gifted athletically. But other than that, the same.

James, like most parents, has an interest in his children’s activities, especially when said activities involve sports. His oldest son, LeBron Jr. (prefers to go by Bronny), is your average high school student who understandably enjoys sports. He’s quite good at basketball, luckily for him having sufficient height (6’4”) and skill as to not be overly burdened by his last name. Let’s be honest; when your father is widely heralded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, you are best advised to either be very good at the same yourself or pursue a line of interest outside of athletics. It’s not like you have any say in who God picks to be your parents.

Bronny, who will be entering his junior year of high school this fall, was playing this past weekend in a prep showcase mini-tournament at … LeBron James Arena, which is on the grounds of James’ high school alma mater in Akron, Ohio. It is reasonable to believe James helped pay for said arena. Anyway, during the game, the announcer, who may or may not be trying for this year’s Darwin Award, decided it would be a hoot to state on mic that Bronny got a foul call late in a game because his father’s name was on the arena. LeBron took umbrage and strongly spoke to the announcer, so much so it caused a stoppage in play.

Anyway, the ruckus was sufficiently rumble-worthy to evoke police wandering over to the announcer’s vicinity should matters escalate. Thankfully they did not; James eventually returned to his seat, and the game ended without further incident.

While it is tempting to pile on LeBron for his outburst, this should be tempered by the wish of every parent worth their salt: Say what you want about me, but leave my kid out of it. As detailed above, Bronny has no say in his lineage. His father isn’t out there playing the game for him, and he’s not refereeing the game. As said before, ball don’t care what color skin guides its actions. Ball also don’t care what your last name is or who your parents might be. The announcer was being a smarmy schmuck, and LeBron was well within his rights to call him out.

Bronny rises or falls on his own merits, as should be the case. He should receive neither deferential nor derogatory treatment because of his father. Bronny has to figure out, at an age when his sole primary concern should be whether he can get a date for the junior prom next spring, if people are trying to get in his circle because of him personally, his potential earning power, or through him to his dad. It’s not that Bronny warrants pity. However, he should be granted grace and sympathy for having to deal with pressures for which sixteen-year-old kids are seldom, if ever, built and trained to cope.

A side note to the above. In my day (and ofttimes night) job duties, I spend a lot of time working with parents of young athletes. Calling most of these kids an athlete is more than a bit of a stretch; I have spent many a thrilling moment carefully showing kids how to properly put on a baseball glove, hold a bat, and offering a steady stream of advice that when hitting a baseball off a tee the objective is to hit the ball and not the tee. I have also observed far too many parents barking at their kids about proper batting technique and such. Certainly, you want your child to learn the fundamentals of whichever sport they play so they will enjoy it more. But when you have a parent announcing in a voice loud enough to be heard in the next county how little Johnny is absolutely guaranteed to be the next Mike Trout, when one objective glance at the kid reveals maybe he’d be better served taking piano lessons for a hobby as he’d go 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in a slowpitch softball game, it’s well nigh impossible to not feel for the kid. Hopefully, LeBron James is able to view Bronny with an objective eye. Perhaps he does have what it takes to one day appear on an NBA roster. If so, good for him. And if LeBron assists in him developing what is needed to play basketball at the highest level, good for him. That’s what real dads do.