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Friday, June 21, 2024

Bronny James’s Draft Position Could Mean Boom or Bust for TV Ratings

  • Bronny will stay in the NBA draft, becoming its biggest storyline.
  • ESPN is spreading the event over two days, meaning the intrigue of his draft position could provide a huge ratings boost.
May 14, 2024; Chicago, IL, USA; Bronny James talks to the media during the 2024 NBA Draft Combine at Wintrust Arena.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Bronny James is officially going pro. 

The son of Lakers star LeBron James will officially stay in the draft, his agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN. By forgoing his final three years of college eligibility, Bronny is now the biggest story of the draft and could play a critical TV role in the first two-night version of the event. 

This year, ESPN will split the draft broadcast across June 26–27, one day for each round. Bronny is widely projected to be a second-round pick, though there is some speculation he could go in the first round. 

That means he could draw viewers in during Round 1 and keep them glued throughout the night; if he’s still available for Round 2, those same viewers may be enticed to stick around. Of course, a first-round shocker might spoil the intrigue for ESPN’s experimental second night.

The younger James played his freshman year at USC after suffering cardiac arrest last summer and averaged just 4.8 points per game on 36% shooting. In what is perceived as a weak draft class, the 19-year-old is the most recognizable name, and teams are considering the idea of taking him for a shot at playing with his father after LeBron famously said in 2022, “My last year will be played with my son.” He has since walked back the comment, but the idea hasn’t died in NBA front offices. Should they play together, the Jameses would be the first father-son tandem to share the court in NBA history. 

“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 said at the draft combine. “I never thought about just playing with my dad, but of course … he’s brought it up a couple times.”

Despite wanting to carve his own path, The Athletic reported he will work out for just a few of the 10 teams who asked him to, including the Lakers and Suns. LeBron has played the past six seasons with Los Angeles, and Phoenix’ front office is run by James Jones, his longtime teammate in both Miami and Cleveland. The Lakers have the 17th and 55th picks, though the Pelicans could take the pick or defer it to 2025 while the Suns have the 22nd pick. Paul recently told Bleacher Report that Bronny will not sign a two-way contract coming out of the draft. Teams have three two-way contracts, which pay $559,782, or half the rookie salary, and allow players to float between the NBA and G League. 

“That’s absolutely true,” Paul said. “Teams know that. I’m not doing that.”

The 2023 NBA draft smashed viewership records with the first round averaging almost 5 million viewers across ESPN and ABC, which was a 24% increase from the 2022 draft. With so much uncertainty surrounding Bronny’s draft range, it could be TV boom or bust.

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