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A Trojan Returning To Battle: The Recovery Of Bronny James

The summer of 2023 was an exciting time for Bronny James. On May 6th, he announced to the sports world that he would play college basketball for the University Of Southern California. This was massive news in the realm of basketball partly because we never saw Lebron play in college, and now we get to witness his son. On May 10th, he signed his letter of intent, officially making him a Trojan, He graduated from high school on May 25th and enrolled at USC on June 30th. 


As summer came to a close, Bronny made his way to USC and reported to the team.  The school was very excited about his arrival, and during USC’s midnight mania, he was the last player to be introduced to build anticipation. Training camp began in July, and he was unaware that his life was about to change forever.


On July 24th, Bronny suffered a cardiac arrest attack during a five-on-five scrimmage and fell unconscious. After being revived on the court,  James was immediately transferred to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and the James family was spotted by paparazzi walking into the hospital doors. The news spread like wildfire and a media circus began. After running some tests, Bronny was released with his family after three days in the medical center. He had to conduct his follow-up testing at the Mayo Clinic, and the Atlantic Health-Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey. 


It was later revealed that he had a congenital heart defect that was discovered by the Cedars-Sinai staff. Congenital heart defects are normally discovered at birth and result in underdeveloped blood vessels around the heart. When questioned by the media, the James' family spokeswoman said “ It is anatomically and functionally significant heart defect that can and will be treated.” 


Dr. Scott Ceresnak, a Cardiac electrophysiologist and The Director Of Pediatric Arrhythmia at Stanford University, researched the causes of cardiac arrest in young athletes. In an interview with The Sporting News, Ceresnak explained the effects of cardiac arrest and how it occurs. “A cardiac arrest is an event where the heart actually is not pumping blood adequately to provide blood to the entire body,” Ceresnak said, “ Blood isn't supplied to the body the way it is supposed to.” 


Ceresnak also commented on how cardiac arrest occurs one in 35,000 to 40,000 athletes.

This means there is a high probability for any NCAA athlete across the nation to suffer from cardiac arrest regardless of the sport. Cardiac arrest occurs more in young males than women especially if they are African-American youths. Dr. Ceresnak said the survival rate for cardiac arrest far away from a hospital is 10% which means Bronny is very lucky to be alive. 


There were never reports of cardiac issues in James' family lineage, and this new revelation could be detrimental to Bronny's dream of following in his father’s footsteps. The USC trainers and physicians decided it would be best for him to take it slow. They monitored his heart rate for the first month of the NCAA season while reaclimating to practice sessions with the team. An arm band was created for Bronny so the USC medical staff can keep tabs on his heart no matter where he is.On September 25th, Coach Enfield answered questions from the media about the recovery timeline. “ Bronny is doing very well, but we just can't comment on anything medically.” Enfield said, “ He’s going to class and doing extremely well in school, and we’re really excited for him.” 


The Trojan staff did something similar with USC Center Vincent Iwuchukwu the previous season. He suffered from cardiac arrest, and after the incident, doctors implemented a device into his heart post-surgery that allowed them to monitor his heart rate. It allowed Vincent to play carefree while the staff monitored his health. He managed to play 14 games in his return and remains a key player for the Trojans this season. 


Coach Enfield and his staff devised a plan that Bronny would be on minutes restriction for the first few games. He finally got real playing time versus Long Beach State on December 10th. He had 4 points, 2 assists, and 3 rebounds after playing 16 minutes. James will be on a minutes restriction until coach Enfield feels comfortable that he can play a long duration. They lost their most recent game to Auburn on December 17th, and Bronny had 5 points and 2 rebounds in the game. With Bronny officially back on the court, the Trojans could use his talent as they’re currently ranked #9 in the PAC-12 with a 5-5 record, and their next matchup are verus the Alabama State Hornets on December 19th.


They are being very cautious even though Bronny is back on the court. Only a few months have passed after a life-threatening medical situation, and his health comes first before basketball. One factor that should be considered out of the entire situation is Bronny’s draft stock. NBA teams might be hesitant to draft him, knowing he has issues with his heart. The possibility of another incident occurring is very possible, and that would be devastating because it might be harder to resuscitate him next time. As of late Decemeber 2023, NBA 2024 mock drafts from USA Today Sports and NBADRAFT ROOM currently have Bronny slated to be a late first-round to a second round pick.


There are also cases in the NBA of young players dealing with heart defects, and still finding success. On December 12th, 2020, Florida gator Keyontae Johnson passed out after finishing an alley-oop dunk in a rivalry game versus Florida State. After a Seminoles timeout he returned to the court, but his body suddenly collasped. He was transported to the hospital in Gainesville, Florida and was in a medically induced coma for 3 days. It was later revealed that Johnson had an underlying heart disease. Even though his draft stock dropped, he was still selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2nd round of the 2023 NBA Draft. 

 

NBA GMs will have to gamble the rewards and potential risk of selecting James on draft night. If Bronny were to make it on an NBA roster with his medical issues, and it prevents him from performing, it could shorten his NBA career exponentially. If a team can maintain his health and safety, Bronny can change a franchise in multiple ways. Being the son of arguably the greatest player ever will attract the masses from all over the city where he will play. The entire James family will likely be in attendance for his big games, especially when Lebron retires, and there will be fans in a frenzy seeing them courtside. 


The jersey sale revenue will be some of the highest we have ever seen for a rookie and the he potential he possesses with his family genes. He is very coachable and could be an All-Star level player with the right developmental program. Lebron will also be there to mentor him, especially in the early years of his NBA career when he needs the most guidance.


USC had alot of hype for their 2023 class of freshmen and transfers. Circumstances have caused an unexpected beginning to their season. The roster still has a lot of talent with Isaiah Collier, DJ Rodman and Boogie Ellis. It takes time to devise a winning formula with new talent, but Coach Enfield and the Trojans still have time to figure out their rotations to make the NCAA Tournament this spring.


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