LeBron James is Bronny's Dad first, and he shows his experience is guiding light

First and foremost, LeBron James is a dad.

First. And. Foremost.

It’s been that way for some time now, if you’ve been paying attention.

So, it wasn’t a surprise when James responded to a mock draft that has Bronny, James’ oldest son and a freshman basketball player at Southern California who sustained a sudden cardiac arrest in the summer, out of the first round and a projected second-round pick in 2025.

James posted on social media, "Can yall please just let the kid be a kid and enjoy college basketball. The work and results will ultimately do the talking no matter what he decides to do. If y'all don't know he doesn't care what a mock draft says, he just WORKS! Earned Not Given!"

He added: "And to all the other kids out there striving to be great just keep your head down, blinders on and keep grinding. These Mock Drafts doesn't matter one bit! I promise you! Only the WORK MATTERS!! Let's talk REAL BASKETBALL PEOPLE!"

Screengrab of Lebron James post
Screengrab of Lebron James post
Screengrab of LeBron James post
Screengrab of LeBron James post

He later deleted the posts but he can’t make it disappear and the sentiment remains.

James wields enormous influence, and what he says and does carries significance. For at least six years, James has answered questions about the idea of playing in the NBA at the same time as his son and has embraced the idea.

Father-son NBA connections are not uncommon and the trend isn’t going away with the sons of former NBA players projected in future drafts. But no father-son combo has played in the NBA simultaneously, and that would be special, a testament to James’ incredible longevity and all-time greatness and his son’s basketball ability.

It’s a cool story.

A year ago, Bronny began entering the discussion as a potential first-round pick in the 2024 draft. As his senior year progressed, he improved, and others in the draft class of 2024 were not making dramatic improvements.

Based on what the elder James had said in the past, teams also considered the idea of drafting Bronny with the idea that James spends a season on the same team – a boon for basketball and business operations.

But circumstances change. Goals change.

Life changes.

In July, Bronny sustained a sudden cardiac arrest while working on USC’s campus, and he could’ve died. For a parent, nothing is more important than the health of a child. Everything else is secondary.

It took time for Bronny to recover, regain strength and stamina and eventually obtain clearance from doctors to play basketball again. In December as Bronny neared his first college game, James said he would miss a Lakers game if it meant seeing that game in person.

Few understand what it’s like to be James and how to manage expectations, and now James is helping his son navigate expectations that are out of their control. It is unavoidable and sometimes unfair. That’s why he stepped in – to help manage that pressure without a negative impact. There might not be anyone better to both understand and guide.

Now, James also said in January that Bronny could play for the Lakers “right now. Easy,” and that carries significant weight, too. If anyone knows who is and isn’t an NBA player, it’s James, and that alters expectations, too.

It’s easy to throw that back at James even it was a line uttered during a spell in which the Lakers were not playing well. But separate from that and in light of the mock draft report, James felt the paternal instinct to protect his son. Nothing wrong with that.

(James has a point about mock drafts. They are useful and entertaining but they are not perfect. That goes for NBA executives and their projections, too, or players such as Nikola Jokic and Draymond Green would’ve been drafted in the first round).

James has said the family will go through the process of figuring out what’s best and what’s next and that it’s Bronny’s decision. Maybe that’s the 2024 draft. Maybe it’s another year at USC. And whether the NBA is part of Bronny’s future will play out in time.

While he might not be a kid in the technical definition (he’s 19), he’s still a young person trying to figure out life after a near-death experience. It’s OK for the elder James to step in with perspective – a dad, first and foremost.

Follow NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt on social media @JeffZillgitt

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: LeBron James helps Bronny manage pressure - by being his Dad first