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LeBron’s joy in Bronny’s USC decision is an interesting reveal

Bronny James isn’t going to USC this fall to become more employable and lift his family out of poverty. He also isn’t likely to stay long enough to earn a degree.

That didn’t deter his billionaire father, LeBron James, from expressing pride in his son’s decision to become the first person in “the James gang” to attend a university, even if it’s only for one or two years before becoming a professional basketball player.

After the Lakers’ Game 3 victory over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA playoffs on Saturday night, LeBron crowed about his son.

“This is an incredible thing,” he said. “Unless it was one of my great-grandmothers or great-grandfathers that was way before my time, to my knowledge this is the first one out of the James gang to go to college. Obviously, his dad didn’t go to school, his mom didn’t go to college. I think my mom maybe stepped on campus a bit, a community college or something, but she had my little ass running around so she couldn’t spend much time in the classroom. She was 19 and I was 3.

“So it’s very, very exciting, very humbling, and a great moment for our family.”

LeBron’s pride was clearly genuine. And no one can begrudge Bronny for choosing USC over spending next year in the G League or on a professional team overseas.

There’s also no denying that Bronny’s circumstances are far different from 99.9% of high school athletes, or students in general, whose parents did not attend college. Forbes recently calculated LeBron’s net worth as exceeding $1 billion.

A 2019 NCAA study found that 16% of student-athletes are first-generation college students (defined as neither parent having attended college). Football (25%) has the highest percentage of such students, and 26% of students from a racial/ethnic minority group report being first-generation college students compared with 14% of white students.

LeBron James congratulates son Bronny, point guard for Sierra Canyon, after his team defeated St. Vincent-St. Mary on Dec. 4, 2021, at Staples Center.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Financing their education is often an issue for first-generation students. More than half are concerned that finances could impede their ability to obtain a degree, while only about a third other student-athletes feel the same.

The study also showed that parents of first-generation student-athletes more often have outsized expectations of their child becoming a professional or Olympic athlete. While only 12% of parents who attended college feel that way about their child, 26% of first-generation students reported that since they were young, their parents expected they would eventually make the pros.

Bronny presumably could relate to that. LeBron has often spoken about someday playing on the same court with his son, who starred at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon High but isn’t considered a can’t-miss NBA prospect.

LeBron mentioned it again Saturday night, although it sounded more like his own motivation might be the primary impediment.

“I’m still serious about it,” he said. “Obviously I’ve got to continue to keep my body and my mind fresh. I think my mind most importantly, if my mind goes, then my body will just go, ‘OK, what are we doing?’”

LeBron signed a two-year, $97-million extension that keeps him with the Lakers through the 2024-25 season, which could be Bronny’s NBA rookie year if he leaves USC after one season.

In other words, playing together is possible. For now, LeBron seemed to catch himself, making it clear that Bronny shouldn’t feel like it’s on him to make his father’s dream a reality.

“My son is going to take his journey, whatever his journey is, however his journey lays out, he’s going to do what’s best for him,” LeBron said. “Just because it’s my aspiration and my goal doesn’t mean it’s his. I’m absolutely OK with that. My job is to support my son in whatever he wants to do.”

LeBron entered the 2003 NBA draft out of high school, two years before the league raised the minimum age. He was the No. 1 overall pick and made millions in endorsements before stepping onto the court. He didn’t need college.

Yet the pride and delight he expressed about Bronny attending USC mirrored that of countless parents when their son or daughter achieves something they never did. College, it turns out, always was important to LeBron James.

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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