NBA history: Lakers draft Bronny James, who will join father LeBron

The first round of the NBA draft at Barclays Center yielded a massive surprise with the Lakers taking Tennessee All-American Dalton Knecht with the 17th pick.

One day later, inside a television studio near the East River in New York City, a more predictable addition to the Lakers’ roster occurred.

As expected, the team selected Bronny James, son of Lakers star LeBron James, with the No. 55 pick, making the two more than just the first father and son to play in the league together at the same time. The two will also be teammates.

“NBA history could be made,” Rob Pelinka said in Los Angeles. “And NBA history should be made in a Lakers uniform.”

LeBron James has the ability to opt out of his contract by June 29 and become an unrestricted free agent. The widespread belief among NBA executives is that he will remain with the Lakers, with only the type of contract left to be formalized.

The pick Thursday came after years of speculation about LeBron James lengthening his career long enough to get to play alongside his son.

In the last 12 months, though, that plan moved to the background as the messaging focused more on finding the best situation for Bronny James.

Bronny James, a 6-foot-1 guard, became an All-American himself after his senior year at Sierra Canyon High before committing to USC. But during a preseason training session at Galen Center, James collapsed after a cardiac arrest and subsequently required surgery to treat a congenital heart defect.

He returned to competitive play on Dec. 10 and played 25 games for the Trojans, averaging only 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

James entered the draft following the season, cementing himself as a potential second-round pick with his play in the draft combine in Chicago.

“My dream has always just been to put my name out, make a name for myself, and of course, you know, get to the NBA,” Bronny James said then. “… I never thought about just playing with my dad, but of course he’s, he’s brought it up a couple times. But yeah, I don’t think about it.”

It’s a reality now, the Lakers and James’ agent executing a plan to get him to Los Angeles.

In the pre-draft process, Rich Paul said that James wouldn’t be signing a two-way deal. And, according to ESPN analyst Bob Myers, Paul was calling teams on Thursday threatening that Bronny James would play in Australia if he were picked by a team they didn’t want him to go to.

Still, Pelinka told reporters that the Lakers weren’t sure they’d be able land James until the Boston Celtics passed on him at pick No. 54.

“[JJ] Redick and I were able to welcome him to the Lakers family and let him know that this moment was happening mostly because of the work he’s put into the game and because of the character [and kind o young man that he is, “ Pelinka said in mentioning the team’s new coach. “That that was what was expressed to him on the phone call.”

Detractors pointed to his statistics, just 4.8 points on 36.6% shooting in 25 games, and his size at 6-foot-1½ as the primary reasons why he didn’t belong on draft boards.

His supporters see a projectable NBA athlete with the potential to impact the game on the defensive end and with a positive trajectory as a shooter. At the NBA combine in May, James shot the ball incredibly well in drills to build some momentum into the before the draft.

James didn’t attend the second-round event, which was held inside a television studio one day after the first round, the first time the league has stretched the draft to two days.

Following the draft, the Lakers added French forward Armel Traore and Pittsburgh wing Blake Hinson on two-way contracts, according to people familiar with the moves not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The Lakers met with James for one of his pre-draft workouts (reportedly, he also worked only for Phoenix) and Pelinka met with him for an extended lunch.

Pelinka said he and James didn’t speak about James’ his feelings about sharing the court with his father because of LeBron James’ potential free agency.

The Lakers, though, don’t seem naïve about the added attention they’ll receive this offseason by hiring Redick and drafting Bronny James.

“The biggest moment in sports happened with the Lakers,” Pelinka said. “And that’s how we’re built, and we’re excited to see this story unfold.”

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