LeBron James has worked hard to become a better shooter, but his NBA greatness has always derived from his ability to help his teams in myriad ways. Thus he knew whereof he spoke recently, while giving his youngest son a postgame pep talk.
The words of wisdom came not after a Lakers game but one involving James’s youngest son, Bryce Maximus James, and while the 11-year-old’s team won, he apparently was feeling despondent after not shooting the ball well. In a video shared by the elder James on social media Wednesday, he let Bryce know that the boy had actually “made three of the biggest plays of the game.”
James is shown pulling his son to the side of a basketball court on which other kids are practicing layups and asking Bryce to take a seat with him. “You get too down on yourself for no reason,” the four-time NBA MVP told his child.
Asking if Bryce wanted to know which plays he made that were so key to his team’s success, James listed a late-game offensive rebound that led to a basket in the midst of his team’s comeback and then an outlet pass to another player who proceeded to earn an “and-one.” The third play, per James, was a swing pass to the same player for the game-winner.
The Lakers star concluded his pep talk by telling his son, “If you’re missing shots or making shots, don’t worry about it, kid. You played a hell of a game. You ain’t gotta worry about making shots or missing shots, all right? Good job. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you, man."
To judge from the sound clarity in the video clip, James might have been wearing a microphone or had one trained on him close by. That could lead to some cynicism about a possible performative aspect to his pep talk, but it seems to have been effective and he can hardly be dinged for sending the wrong message.
James is well aware that there is a lot of interest in his off-court thoughts and activities, and the fact is, superstar athletes are hardly the only ones filming themselves going about their daily lives these days. If he chose to share a clip that happens to make him look like a great dad, then sure, that might be seen as a bit self-aggrandizing, but again, it’s hard to quibble with someone using his wide-reaching platform to show an example of good parenting.
James also has shown he’s aware of the burdens, as well as the advantages, his sons have as they develop their own basketball skills (he also has a four-year-old daughter). In a July clip from an HBO show centered around his barbershop conversations with other noted figures — an even greater indication that James has reason to feel there’s a market for his off-court thoughts and deeds — he said he regretted naming his oldest son LeBron James Jr. because of the pressure to live up to his accomplishments.
James explained he did that after growing up without a father, saying, “So my whole thing was like, ‘Whenever I have a kid, not only is he going to be a Jr., I’m going to do everything that this man didn’t do.’ They’re going to experience things that I didn’t experience — the only thing that I can do is give them the blueprint, and it’s up to them to take their own course, whenever that time comes. ”
“Being an NBA player’s son, it’s hard,” Shareef O’Neal, a freshman forward for UCLA and the son of Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, told Yahoo Sports in July. “You’re going to get a lot of pressure. You don’t know what’s real and what’s not. It’s definitely something that you need to be prepared for.”
James’s oldest son, a 14-year-old nicknamed “Bronny,” appears to be doing quite well thus far as a nascent hoopster, as he has already gained interest from top-flight college basketball programs such as Duke and Kentucky. Bryce has shown some promising ability, as well, but it’s not hard to imagine him feeling that his pedigree obligates him to rack up points every time he competes, all the more so when his celebrated father is watching.
James actually claimed in September that Bryce was the “best shooter in this household for sure,” but apparently it just wasn’t the youngster’s day in a recent game. There are all too many examples of pushy fathers who would have let their sons have it under similar circumstances, so it’s worth giving James credit for his positive, supporting words.
It’s also worth noting that, in most cases, if James isn’t filming himself at his son’s basketball game, someone else in attendance almost certainly is. Ultimately, while he may have been a bit self-serving in sharing the video, there’s certainly an example in it some other parents would do well to emulate.
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