There is one – and only one – valid reason to criticize LeBron James for his sideline antics and layup line dunkfests that happened at his son, Bronny’s, AAU games over the weekend: The hype.
The level of expectation for Bronny is already ridiculously high, to the point that doing something that is nearly impossible – simply reaching the NBA – will be considered a failure. If Bronny “only” ends up being a high major player, or even “just” a rotation guy at the NBA level, there are going to be people that look at him as a bust, or a disappointment, or whatever. It’s fair to wonder what the psychological toll will be on the kid himself if that happens.
To put this conversation into context, Bronny’s still just 14 years old, he has yet to even spend a day as a high school student and he’s been on Instagram for just two months, and he already has nearly 3 million followers. Zion has 4 million. That kind of fame as the son of the greatest to ever play the game means everyone is going to expect Junior to follow in those same footsteps as one of the NBA’s best when the truth is that simply getting to the NBA, regardless of who your father is, is an incredible achievement.
DAUSTER: Is Bronny James worth the hype?
It’s hard to be an NBA player. There are 500ish of those jobs available, and roughly a dozen or so bonafide superstars. Setting that as the baseline for a 14 year old that is still about 6-foot-1 is totally unfair.
But that’s just about where we are right now, and every time LeBron decides to go viral, he adds to it.
(And yes, LeBron is consciously making this decision. He’s the most famous athlete in America. He understands how social media works, and he knows what will happen when he goes nuts at an AAU game.)
And if you want to take that angle when discussing LeBron’s sidelines antics, I get it. I don’t think it’s wrong.
But that’s really all the ammo you have.
Because what else is there to truly criticize him for?
Taking the shine away from the other players on his son’s team?
Well, the dunk in that video was posted on every major social channel. It happened in a U15 AAU game. Would there be that many cameras in that gym if LeBron wasn’t there? If anything, every player on that roster – and hell, every player that has gone up against Bronny’s Strive For Greatness team – has seen their profile rise as a result. Skyy Clark, a five-star Class of 2022 prospect that plays with Bronny, told Yahoo Sports he went from 27,000 Instagram followers to 144,000. But tell me more about how LeBron his taking attention away from kids like Clark.
And if you think anyone is complaining about it, this is what Dior Johnson – a top ten player in the Class of 2022, and the kid that threw the between-the-legs alley-oop in the clip above – had to say about it:
I feel like this is a good time to mention that Bronny wasn’t even playing in this game!
LeBron was this excited about two kids that weren’t his own children.
Think about that.
Because the fact of the matter is that LeBron knows better than anyone how damaging it can be for a boy to grow up without a father in his life, and he knows the value that a strong, positive and supportive male influence can provide those boys. Johnson is a perfect example of this.
Could LeBron stand to chill out a bit on the sidelines? Yeah, maybe. There are things that happen in the sport of basketball that are worth going that crazy about, and that alley-oop in a meaningless AAU game probably isn’t one of them.
But you won’t find me being the one to criticize a man that always wanted a father in his life going a little bit overboard when it comes to supporting, and showing love to, his son and the young men that he has taken under his wing.
Because at the end of the day, it is quite literally the only relatable thing about LeBron for every normal human being on the planet.