Sports

Bronny James says he's 'grateful' to have NBA dream in reach after health scare last summer

CHICAGO — (AP) — Bronny James still has some lingering fears. He also has big dreams.

Nearly a year after going into cardiac arrest during a workout, he is close to achieving his goal of playing in the NBA just like his famous father.

“It's just a great thing to happen to me, in terms of just being grateful for everything,” James said at the NBA draft combine. “I put in the work and stuff like that to get back, so I feel like I've earned the opportunity. I'm extremely grateful for everything that's been given to me.”

James played in a scrimmage on Tuesday after participating in drills the previous day, when he had his vertical leap measured at 40 1/2 inches and his height — without shoes — at 6-foot-1 1/2 despite being listed by Southern California as 6-4. He also answered questions from reporters, something he didn't do last season.

The son of NBA career scoring leader LeBron James, Bronny James was one of the nation's top prospects when he decided to stay near home and committed to USC last May out of Sierra Canyon School in nearby Chatsworth. But things took an unexpected turn last summer.

James went into cardiac arrestbecause of a congenital heart defect during a basketball workout at USC in late July and needed surgery. He was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and later seen by doctors at the Mayo Clinic and Atlantic Health-Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.

“It was a tough time, for sure,” he said. “All this work that I put in, it just really built me into someone that would never give up. It paid off because I put in the work after that situation, and I'm back to where I want to be.”

James said the possibility that he wouldn't be able to play again was discussed. Even now, the fear from the cardiac arrest “is still lingering.”

“I feel like my parents were a big factor believing in me and giving me the love and affection that I needed at that time,” he said. “I still think about everything that could happen. I just love the game so much that it overpowers it.”

James missed the first month of the season. He averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25 games for the Trojans.

“That would set anybody back, what he went through,” said Isaiah Collier, a projected first-round pick after starring as a freshman at USC. “Y'all gonna see what he's really capable of real soon. I feel like Bronny's a great player. He definitely deserves to be here. He's gonna be fine.”

USC went 15-18 overall and 8-12 in the Pac-12 during a season marked by injuries to several players. The Trojans missed the NCAA Tournament after three straight appearances, and coach Andy Enfield left to take the job at SMU.

James declared for the draft and entered the transfer portal on April 5, hours before USC introduced Eric Musselman as its new coach. He has until later this month to decide if he wants to turn pro or play at least another year in college.

The only time James addressed the media last season was following his first game, when he appeared for less than a minute to thank the doctors, athletic trainers and support system that helped him return to play. He did not take questions that day and — despite numerous requests — never granted any interviews. James said he was just following his advisors' advice.

LeBron James, his wife and daughter were frequent spectators at USC games. The elder James has said repeatedly he would like to team with his son. The four-time MVP and four-time NBA champion just completed his 21st season and could become a free agent if he opts out of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. But James also said following a season-ending loss to Denver that he hasn't "given much thought lately" to playing alongside his son.

“The kid has to do what he wants to do — and I don’t want to say kid no more, young man has to decide what he wants to do. I just think the fact that we’re even having the conversation is pretty cool," he said at the time.

Bronny James said his goal is to get to the NBA — not necessarily play on the same team as LeBron.

“My dream has always just been to put my name out, make a name for myself and, of course, get to the NBA,” he said. “I never thought about playing with my dad. But of course, he's brought it up a couple times.”

Bronny James dismissed the idea that a team might draft him as a way to lure his father.

“This is a serious business,” he said. “I don't feel like there would be a thought of ‘I’m just drafting this kid just because I'm gonna get his dad.' I don't think a GM would really allow that. I think I've put in the work and I'll get drafted because of not only the player but the person that I am.”

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

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