Busting Brackets

There is only one logical landing spot for Bronny James in the transfer portal

Lebron James Jr. could be leaving USC after an underwhelming freshman year. He needs a fresh start and his father's former teammate could provide a soft-landing, far away from the bright lights.

USC Trojans guard Bronny James (6)
USC Trojans guard Bronny James (6) / James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a lot of pressure to carry the name Lebron James Jr. onto a basketball court and LBJ Sr. made sure to heap an extra helping upon his oldest son’s shoulders by proclaiming that he wants to play with him in the NBA. Well, reality set in for Bronny in his first year at USC, and now it's time for a tough decision.

In 25 games with just six starts, the 6-foot-4 freshman guard averaged 4.8 points in under 20 minutes a game while shooting 36.6% from the field. Andy Enfield’s conglomerate of highly touted West Coast freshmen and ball-dominant guards flopped with a 15-18 record and Enfield fled to SMU. Now, only a year removed from a cardiac arrest that nearly ended his playing career, and his life for that matter, James reportedly entered his name into the transfer portal and there is only one logical destination for his fresh start, Pittsburgh. 

James was never the one-and-done NBA prospect that his father was and hoped he’d be. Then, after a serious heart condition robbed him of much of his offseason preparation, his freshman season was a mess and understandably overshadowed by Isiah Collier, who will likely head to the NBA this summer. It’s clear he needs to get his footing in college basketball and he might need to leave the bright lights of LA to do it. 

Lebron James Sr. went straight to the NBA out of St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Akron Ohio, so throughout the years he’s claimed different college programs as his own, at times even glomming onto the prestige of Duke basketball after summers spent with Coach K for USA basketball. However, this past season, Lebron finally found a college team, and it wasn’t his son’s Trojans. 

Instead, Lebron shared messages of support for Keith Dambrot, the man who coached him at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s and the head coach of the Duquesne Dukes for the past seven seasons. Dambrot took the Dukes to an improbable Atlantic 10 Tournament title and the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1977 with Dru Joyce III, Lebron’s high school teammate as his top assistant. 

Wearing fresh pairs of Lebron’s, gifted by the man himself, the Dukes knocked off BYU in the first round of March Madness. Dambrot’s historic run came to an end in the second round with a blowout loss to Illinois, as did Dambrot’s career. He had announced earlier in the season that the 2024 season would be his last. 

Then, Lebron became even further embedded with the basketball program that plays second-fiddle to Pitt in a basketball-agnostic city. The 20-time NBA All-Star broke the news on X that Joyce was taking over as the head coach at Duquesne. 

Finally, just hours after word began to circulate that Bronny was hopping into the portal on Tuesday night, Lebron tweeted this:

Of course, Lebron was going to continue to voice his support for his longtime friend, but in the words of Dash’s annoying teacher in The Incredibles, “Coincidence, I think not!”

We have to remember who Lebron James Sr. is. Besides being our best real-life facsimile of Mr. Incredible, he’s also one of the most calculated athletes we’ve ever witnessed. 

The execution of “The Decision” was disastrous, but that’s mostly because it was ahead of its time and ushered in the player-empowerment era. He didn’t go to Miami for the glitz and glam of South Beach, he went because it was the best place for his career and it’s the same story for his return to Cleveland. Sure, he did it to bring a championship to his hometown, but he also did it because he realized Kyrie Irving and the No. 1 overall pick that became Kevin Love was a better recipe for a title than an aging Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. 

The move to LA brought another title and turned Lebron into a business mogul in the best place for his family. Now, it’s a safe bet that Lebron is sensing the ideal landing spot for his oldest son is Duquesne. Bronny could develop into an NBA player, but he’s far away right now, he needs to play mid-major basketball to develop his skills and rebuild his confidence, and doing so under the guise of his father’s longstanding relationship with an A10 head coach is masterful career manipulation. 

This isn't Bronny James dropping down a level because he’s not a high-major quality player yet, it’s Bronny James honoring his family’s roots while getting ample touches against George Mason and Davidson instead of being a role player against Purdue and Illinois in the Big Ten. 

Not to mention, there are few places further from the Hollywood spotlight than Pittsburgh. It wouldn't be exactly like when Rocky Balboa chops down trees and runs up mountains in Siberia in Rocky IV, but it might feel like exile to him, and that might not be a bad thing. Rocky beats Drago at the end of Rocky IV, maybe Bronny can beat Dayton by the end of Year 2.

That may sound like a joke at Bronny's expense, but it's not. It's hard not to feel for a kid who has been burdened by the expectation of basketball excellence since birth yet robbed in the same genetic lottery where his father hit the ultimate jackpot. Excelling in the A10 isn't easy and Bronny won't immediately be the best player in the league if he does make the move. It's the right level of basketball for his sophomore season, and there's no shame in that.

Yes, the jokes will still flow if Bronny does transfer to Duquesne, and a basketball player with a superstar’s name who spent much of his young adult life in LA, moving to Pittsburgh is a classic square peg-round hole dilemma. Still, it’s the only logical landing spot and isn't quite as far-fetched as it sounds because, from a basketball perspective, it's the right move, and Lebron James Sr. always makes the right move.

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