LeBron James says Bronny is misunderstood, doesn’t care about critics

LeBron James has weathered plenty of criticism during his 21-year NBA career that has seen him become the NBA’s all-time scoring leader and widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But he said as much as he tunes out the critics, his 19-year-old son — and new Los Angeles Lakers teammate — LeBron “Bronny” James Jr. does so even more.

“I don’t know if people really understand Bronny,” LeBron said in a recent interview with ESPN. “He doesn’t care. I actually care a little bit. When I came in [as a rookie], I wanted people to like me, and some of the things that people were saying about me kind of bothered me early on in my career. … He doesn’t give a f—.”

Both father and son have come under criticism since Bronny was drafted No. 55 overall by the Lakers last month despite just one middling college basketball season at USC. But LeBron James said he is not worried about how outside perception could influence Bronny.

“He does not care about nobody,” LeBron told ESPN. “He doesn’t even listen to that stuff. He’s like the coolest. He’s like the complete opposite of his dad. His dad will say something. Bro does not care. … Everything that’s being said about him, he really does not care.”

LeBron also lavished praise on Bronny for still having the work ethic it took to be a high-level college basketball player and eventually make it to the NBA despite growing up already famous and wealthy due to LeBron’s successes.

“I personally don’t know if I would’ve been able to do that if the roles were reversed,” LeBron said. “When I was coming up, I had no choice. I literally had no choice. … I had to make it out for me. My mom, my family, my hometown, my city. Bronny has all the choices in the world. If Bronny wants to stop right now or never played basketball or just wanted to be a gamer or wanted to be a chef or wanted to be nothing or whatever, he could have done that.”

LeBron also pointed out that Bronny still played most of the college basketball season at USC and cemented himself as an NBA Draft prospect despite being less than a year removed from a cardiac incident last summer that required surgery.

“For him to be able to be in the NBA, the kid, he’s special,” LeBron said.

Bronny, for his part, expressed a similar sentiment to his father during his first press conference as a Laker. 

“I’ve been dealing with stuff like this for my whole life,” he said back on July 2. “It’s nothing different. It’s more amplified for sure, but I can get through it.”

“SPEAK” co-host Joy Taylor agrees that in his short NBA career thus far, Bronny has handled the criticism well — thanks in large part to the standard set by his father.

“I think he’s had the best example of all time in LeBron James, and how to handle criticism — unfair criticism, over the top criticism, consistent criticism, criticism from every direction, criticism that doesn’t make sense, some criticism that does make sense,” Taylor said Monday. “No one has been criticized more than LeBron James, I don’t care what or who you want to present to me in the entire industry, in my opinion, of [sports] debate and opinion television. It was built on LeBron James.”

LeBron addresses Bronny’s critics after his NBA Summer League debut for Lakers | Speak

Not only that, Taylor said, but she pointed out that James also faced massive hype entering the NBA as a teenager, a weighty responsibility as the international face of a growing global league, his cultural and political stances, and his infamous decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010 as well as his decision to return to Cleveland four years later.

“LeBron has handled nonstop criticism from the moment that he was 16 years old to today, in a way that I don’t know that anyone else can, because I don’t think there is a [comparison],” Taylor continued. “Compared to how much [LeBron is] criticized, and the way that he’s handled criticism, I think Bronny’s had a great example.

And I haven’t heard or seen Bronny react in a way that he is warranted to. I like that athletes and public figures have the ability to have their own platforms and fire back at critics if they will, or explain themselves, or apologize if they need to. That’s the world that we live in — you can get criticized and you can speak on it —and he hasn’t. He’s not going to be exempt from criticism. He’s not going to be exempt from pressure. He’s not going to be exempt from whatever unfair criticism or over-the-top criticism or haters or whatever it is. No one is exempt from that. And he is in a very unique position. So I think he’s handled it well.”

Bronny James is currently playing for the Lakers’ summer league team in the “California Classic” in Sacramento and, despite missing his team’s last game with knee soreness, is expected to play in the Las Vegas Summer League as well. LeBron, meanwhile, is also in Las Vegas gearing up to lead Team USA men’s basketball to what would be its fifth straight gold medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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