Bronny James and Bryce James share the same NBA superstar gene pool, but DNA delivered differences to LeBron James’ sons.
One wears glasses. The other doesn’t.
One is a guard. The other is a forward.
One has emerged. The other is blossoming.
Both play for Sierra Canyon in Southern California and are scheduled to be in their father’s home state of Ohio on Saturday to do something for the first and last time – play together against their father’s alma mater.
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The matchup will take place Saturday night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus at the Ohio Play-by-Play Classic. Sierra Canyon will face St. Vincent-St. Mary, where LeBron won three state titles before the Cleveland Cavaliers took him wth the No. 1 pick of the 2003 NBA draft.
At Sierra Canyon, the James brothers are playing for the same team for the first time.
“This is for sure very special for them,’’ said Ed Estavan, an assistant coach at Sierra Canyon.
Bronny, an 18-year-old senior, is the team captain. Bryce, a 15-year-old sophomore who wears glasses, is a role player. Technically speaking, it’s not a big brother-little brother situation.
Bronny is a 6-3 guard and Bryce is a 6-4½ small forward.
They both have NIL deals with Klutch Sports, founded by LeBron’s agent and longtime friend, Rich Paul.
When they’re on the court together, Estavan said, it’s not unusual to see Bronny helping Bryce with defensive assignment schemes, offensive sets or rebounding.
“They’re amazing kids, they’re amazing brothers, how Bronny’s the big brother to his little brother and how he guides him and helps him and Bryce is very willing to learn,’’ Estavan said. “It’s just an amazing thing to see, knowing they have the spotlight on them every night.’’
The spotlight was especially bright Monday night when James’ sons played against Kiyah Anthony, the son of Carmelo Anthony, during a matchup against Christ the King of New York.
James and Anthony, a 10-time NBA All-Star who played for the Lakers last season, were in attendance – as were Kim Kardashian and Scottie Pippen – at Sierra Canyon’s home gym in Chatsworth, California.
This weekend, James will be facing a logistical challenge.
On Friday night at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, James scored a game-high 30 points as the Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets, 126-108. On Sunday night, the Lakers are scheduled to play at home against the Washington Wizards.
To watch his sons play Saturday, James will have to squeeze in a round-trip flight to his home state and back.
“I know as a dad if he has a way to get there and he can make it, he’ll be there,’’ said Dru Joyce II, who coached James at St. Vincent-St. Mary and is still the head coach there. “I think that he wants his sons to see he loves them and he supports them.”
James made it under similar circumstances in 2019 when Bronny and Sierra Canyon played St. Vincent-St. Mary for the first time.
He scored 29 points in a loss to the Rockets in Houston on the night of Dec. 13, 2019, attended his son’s game the following day in Columbus and the next night scored 28 points in a victory over the Charlotte Hornets in North Carolina.
“We expect him to be there but there’s nothing that’s been guaranteed to us,’’ said Jeremy Treatman, the tournament director, who said 15 tickets were reserved for James and his family at the request of a family representative.
At one point, James’ sons were expected to play for St. Vincent-St. Mary. But those plans changed when James signed with the Lakers before the 2018-19 season and brought his family to L.A.
Both of James’ sons have been labeled late bloomers, and Bronny elevated his play over the past year, said Travis Branham, a national analyst for 247Sports, which specializes in recruiting.
“His athleticism has really skyrocketed in that time, but the biggest change in his game has just been how aggressive and assertive he’s become,’’ Branham said. “For the first three years of his high school career, for the most part, he was really passive. He was too unselfish.
“It’s not a bad thing, but it comes to the point where you want to see him take the ball and go get his own bucket and try to take the game over. And I really think he started to turn that corner and turn that page in the spring and in the summer.’’
Bronny is rated as a four-star recruit by 247 and ESPN. ESPN rates him as the 37th best player and 247 rates him as the 40th best player in the Class of 2023.
He has received scholarship offers from Memphis, Ohio State and Southern Cal, according to 247. According to ESPN, he also has received offers from Kentucky, Michigan and Oregon.
Bryce has received an offer from Duquesne, according to ESPN.
Sierra Canyon and St. Vincent-St. Mary will be playing for the third time.
In 2019, Bronny, then a freshman, scored 15 points, was named MVP and led Sierra Canyon to a victory before an estimated crowd of 14,000 in Columbus.
In 2021, in Los Angeles, Bronny scored 19 points while leading Sierra Canyon to a second victory over his father’s alma mater.
He’s a favorite to take home MVP honors again, and the future MVP might reside in the same home and be blossoming on the horizon.
“I expect the same thing from Bryce,’’ said Joyce, the longtime coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary. “I guess the question becomes how much does he want it?’’