Bronny James shines in McDonald’s All-American Game, 20 years after dad LeBron

West team guard Bronny James shoots the ball in the first half of the McDonald’s All-American Game at the Toyota Center in Houston March 28, 2023. (Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

HOUSTON — Chants of “We want Bronny” came from young fans in the crowd at the Toyota Center five minutes before the end of Tuesday night’s McDonald’s All-American Game. It was a 1-point lead in an All-Star game that felt like a state championship with every player doing their best.

Grant Rice, the west team’s head coach, whispered something to him Bronnie James on the bench. James smiled, nodded and called back 30 seconds later. James put on a show, hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers for 15 points with 4 assists. It wasn’t enough, however, as the East team defeated the West 109-106 in one of the most competitive McDonald’s games in recent memory.

“We all said when we went into the game that we would compete and play.” Duke signs Jared McCain said Yahoo Sports. “That was fun. It was a fight.”

James had one more thing to prove. As a top 40 recruit When he came into the game and only 24 players were selected for one of the highest honors in high school basketball, some thought he only received the honor because of his father, LeBron James. Bronny went into the week — three practice sessions, a scrimmage and the All-Star Game — with glaring pressure on whether he belonged in that group.

Several other top players in the class laced up for the 8:30 practice sessions, which are usually more important than the actual game. Nearly 100 NBA team scouts and executives line the baseline each year and participate in the two-hour drills over a three-day period. Many scouts were attuned to the West practice and trying to get a feel for James as an NBA prospect.

“He plays the right way and has a 3-point game that translates,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “For all the scrutiny he’s going through, he seems like a good kid and someone that players enjoy playing with.”

James fought hard in every practice, making good stops on defense where he excels as a defender on the ball and never looking out of place or like a player who doesn’t belong on the pitch. teammate Ron Holland was one of the best players on the pitch and James never shied away from guarding him at practices. Holland, a Texan commit, hit hard shots in the corner, with James shutting out, and after Holland made a basket, James just smiled, shook his head, and gave Holland a quick smack as he headed back to the baseline. He was never discouraged or showed negative emotions.

“His game is amazing” Oregon signs Mookie Cook said of James. “I’ve seen it since eighth grade, seventh grade and I’ve always thought he was super awesome and has the talent ever since. I don’t know what people are talking about, I have a feeling he was good.”

James fully participated in all drills, scrimmage and even put on a bit of show at the Powerade Jam Fest the night before the game.

It fell a little short in some areas, leading to some eye-rolling from Scouts and leaders at the event. James and one of the best guards in the class, DJ WagnerShe wasn’t wearing shoes from Adidas, the main sponsor of the event. James and Wagner signed Nike boot deals last fall (but don’t have a signature boot themselves) and were the only boy players not to wear head-to-toe Adidas gear, despite several other players being tied to Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League. In all the social content promoting the game earlier this week, both James and Wagner stood with their backs to the camera, to avoid them wearing Adidas. James was also the only player, on both the girls’ and boys’ sides, to opt out of his media day, which was an eight-minute session controlled by a moderator.

“As LeBron’s son, it’s understandable that there are extra cautions and people wanting to protect the narrative,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “But this [demands and exceptions from his team] will not be acceptable again in his career.”

James is the highest ranking prospect in his class not yet committed. His recruitment has been kept under wraps, and he made only one known visit to Ohio State in the fall. USC and Oregon are also believed to be in the mix, and dedicated players from each program have lobbied for James’ recruitment for next season.

“I’m definitely trying to recruit him” USC commit and West team teammate Isaiah Collier called. “He’s a great shooter. I feel like he’s one of the best all-around players in the country. So he’s a great player and knows how to play the game and he won’t overdo anything. I’m just telling him he can stay home, that’s all I have to say.”

Oregon signs Kwame Evans also gave a glimpse of where the Ducks are at when he told Yahoo Sports in January: “[Bronny] told me he likes Oregon and I want him to visit him there. Everyone who comes in is selfless. We all don’t cut, move or hold the ball for too long so it will benefit. Bronny can be more of a playmaker and shot designer and I think we would play really well together.”

With James’ high school season over, there is plenty of time to focus on his next chapter and where he wants to continue his basketball career.

The G League Ignite is also rumored to be an option with the team’s home base in Las Vegas, a 45-minute flight from James and his family in Los Angeles. He still has plenty of time to make a decision as players don’t report back for summer training on campus until June.

James ended his high school career with a brilliant performance. His father and the rest of his family watched proudly while seated on the sidelines, and he could be seen smiling and cheering throughout the game.

Despite being under a microscope and scrutinizing his entire career, James silenced critics on Tuesday night, showing why he belongs on the pitch alongside some of the best players in his class and that he’s more than just his famous surname.

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