Bronny James made his college basketball debut for the USC Trojans on Sunday, having suffered a cardiac arrest during a workout at the team’s Galen Center home court on June 20; NBA icon LeBron James was in attendance to watch his son in action as the Trojans faced Long Beach State
Last Updated: 11/12/23 8:26am
Bronny James, the son of NBA icon LeBron James, expressed gratitude for everyone who supported him after he made his college debut for Southern California nearly five months after he suffered cardiac arrest.
James suffered the cardiac arrest on July 20 during a workout at Galen Center and was found to have a congenital heart defect which was treatable. He was recently cleared by his doctors and USC’s medical staff to participate in full-contact practice, having been limited to working out on his own doing weights, cardio and shooting.
The 19-year-old guard had four points, three rebounds and two assists on Sunday, coming off the bench to play in front of his superstar father, but could not help prevent the Trojans losing in overtime to Long Beach State, 84-79.
James walked off with his deflated team-mates and did not greet his father who sat courtside, but did make a brief statement to a horde of assembled journalists afterwards.
“I just want to say I’m thankful for everything,” James said, along with thanking the Mayo Clinic, where he received treatment, as well as his parents, siblings, Trojans head coach Andy Enfield and his team-mates “during this hard time in my life”.
In total, James logged 16 minutes, including starting the five-minute extra session, but he was not a factor then before coming out for the last time. He was 1 of 3 shooting, hitting a three-pointer in the second half.
His biggest impression came on the defensive side though. All of James’ rebounds were on the defensive glass and he had two steals.
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“I thought Bronny played well,” Enfield said. “He defended at a high level. He guarded the quick ballhandlers on the other team pretty well.
“It was exciting for everybody to see him out there and I’m sure his family was the most excited.”
Enfield added James’ minutes would continue to be monitored by USC’s medical staff.
He played six minutes in the first half, when the Trojans led 45-30 at the break. In his second three-minute stint, James made a huge block on Jadon Jones, who was streaking to the basket on a fast break, riling up the fans.
James was quick to pass to his team-mates, even when it appeared he could have taken a shot, and assisted on a dunk by Vincent Iwuchukwu, who also suffered cardiac arrest as a freshman. He returned to play 14 games last season.
“It’s great to see Bronny out there, he’s put a lot of work in the gym,” Iwuchukwu said. “We talked before the game, and I told him to go out there and have fun.”
James entered the game for the first time about seven minutes in, with some in the crowd standing and cheering. He missed his first shot, a three-point attempt.
Moments before, he tipped the ball away from a Long Beach State player, but the visitors got it back. The possession ended in a shot-clock violation for the Beach. James also snagged a rebound.
“He makes the right play all the time,” Boogie Ellis, USC’s top guard, said. “Everybody wants a guy like that on their team. He defends well at a high level.”
LeBron James arrived seconds before the national anthem, holding hands with nine-year-old daughter, Zhuri as he passed the Trojans who were lined up across the court for the anthem.
The younger James’ debut capped a big weekend for the family after LeBron helped the Lakers win the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament on Saturday night in Las Vegas, earning everyone on the team a $500,000-per-person payday.
The NBA was well-represented in the game. One of James’ team-mates is DJ Rodman, the son of Dennis Rodman, who fouled out. The Beach’s roster includes Chayce Polynice, the son of 15-year NBA veteran Olden Polynice.
James joined his team-mates for on-court warmups 90 minutes before tipoff. Wearing a white USC shirt and red sweatpants, he took a variety of jumpers under the watchful lenses of a baseline full of photographers.
Students lined up around one side of Galen Center and down an adjacent street waiting to get inside. Although there were pockets of empty seats in the 10,258-seat arena, James’ debut helped the Trojans draw their largest crowd of 9,806 this season.