Should Bronny James have made McDonald’s All American game? Explorers weigh.
Through no fault of his own, Bronny James found himself at the center of a debate this week.
It began when the rosters for the 46th annual McDonald’s All American Games for children were announced, and the eldest son of LeBron James was among the 24 players chosen for the prestigious all-star game.
The exclusion of big-name players like Mikey Williams, AJ Johnson and Caleb Foster helped fuel conversations about whether Bronny James deserved a spot in the March 28 game at Houston’s Toyota Center.
“We would have this same conversation if he didn’t make it,” he said. frank burlisonan original member of McDonald’s All American Games selection committee, “because he would have sparked so much conversation or debate either way just because of the nature of who he is.”
He is not a clone of his father.
While LeBron James is chiseled at 6-9, Bronny is far less imposing, listed at 6-3 on the McDonald’s list. But the standout plays have been impressive for the senior captain at Sierra Canyon High School in Chatsworth, California.
Footage of Bronny’s breakaway dunks aired on ESPN, went viral on social media, and proved he has enough athleticism to deliver spectacular moments.
“His vert has improved as much as any kid in the class,” he said. Brandon Claywho has been involved in grassroots basketball for more than two decades and joined McDonald’s voting committee for the boys and girls games in 2015.
In the past two years, Clay said, he’s seen Bronny play in person more than half a dozen times.
“Every time I’ve seen him play live, it’s been really good,” Clay said. “He has played a great competition. He always looks like he belongs at the table. He doesn’t look out of place.
“He is a very different player, obviously, from his father. If you’re judging (Bronny) by that lens, I think it’s unfair to the kid.
“But if you’re talking about a kid who plays the game the right way, makes the extra pass to the corner kid, can shoot the 3 ball, I feel like he’s worked his way into the discussion.”
Adam Finkelstein, director of basketball scouting at 247 Sports, said: “What’s counterintuitive is that the son and namesake of LeBron James isn’t necessarily the guy who’s going to go out and put 30 points on the board on any given night. That’s the part that I think strikes people who haven’t been watching it at first glance.
“What I think is most impressive is the microscope that he’s been under his entire high school career, he’s always played the right way. It means he’s shared the basketball, he hasn’t forced bad shots, he hasn’t forced himself to take a leading role, he plays within the flow of the game, he doesn’t dribble too much. It means he’s committed and competitive defensively.
“Even though he may not go out there and get you 30, he does things that will impact winning not just at this level but the next level.”
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But Bronny wouldn’t have merited a discussion for the McDonald’s team unless he had shown progress since the summer, said Van Coleman, a longtime recruiting committee member and scout. Since the end of the summer, in the Coleman National Rankings, Bronny has moved up to No. 29 from No. 41.
“Now it’s not 24,” Coleman said, referring to the 24 spots available on the roster for the McDonald’s game. “But the difference between No. 20 and No. 30 (in the national ranking), shake the hat.
“He’s become a player that I can see going forward is a draftable player and eventually will be.”
The argument against Bronny
Burlison, who was inducted into the USA Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame in 2005, said being the son of LeBron James had a clear impact on Bronny’s selection.
“I don’t want this to sound negative about what I think of (Bronny) as a player,” said Burlison, the last original member of the selection committee still voting. “But if he wasn’t LeBron’s son and he’d seen him at another high school, he’d say, ‘He’s a good player. He’s the best at anything in California, he’s a D-1 guard.
“But we wouldn’t be debating whether it’s a McDonald’s All American or something, that’s for sure. I don’t know if that sounds negative or hateful, but so be it. This is how things are for the mere fact of who his dad is; he’s always going to have a huge spotlight on him, either positively or negatively.”
What some critics are saying about Bronny: A complementary player who lacks the killer instinct, a pretty good shooter who lacks consistency, a player who is good at many things but rarely spectacular, barring those occasional dunks, that is.
But Burlison wanted to clarify his thoughts on including Bronny in the McDonald’s All American game.
“There were a multitude of guys I didn’t vote for who made it, so I don’t want to just say it about Bronny,” he said. “There were other guys I didn’t vote for that I thought deserved less than Bronny. Bronny is a good player.”
How voting works or not
There are 24 voters who determine the children’s rolls, said Joe Wootten, chairman of the committee and director of the game.
“The team is selected democratically by the blue ribbon committee, which is made up of tournament directors, event directors, scouts, the media, high school coaches,” Wootten told USA TODAY Sports. “Everyone on the team is voted out by the committee.”
Clay Kallam, a former member of the selection committee for the girls’ game, said his questions about the voting process, including the lack of transparency, got him off the committee in 2015. Kallam said Terri Lynn told him: director of the voting process nomination and selection, that the four spots on the list are determined by something other than a committee vote.
Joe Wootten said, “I’m not going to comment on that and Clay Kallam, but I can tell you that’s not the case.”
Burlison rejected the idea that Bronny made the cut in hopes of boosting the ratings for ESPN, which televises the games, or because of any other “cheating.”
“They are honorable people,” he said of the Woottens.
Regardless of the voting process, Finkelstein of 247 Sports said, “Bronny James is the most recognizable name in high school basketball. So from a visibility standpoint, if I’m McDonald’s, I probably want him in the game.” .
The most controversial snub
Bronny being in the mix has amplified the debate. But the debate is nothing new given the reality of the process.
“A child will be lost every year,” Coleman said.
Williams, Johnson and Foster will dispute the mythical title of the most unforgivable snub by being left out of the squads.
Then there’s Jackson Shelstad, a point guard from West Linn (Oregon) High School. He went head-to-head with Bronny on December 30 at the Les Schwab Invitational, a premier tournament in Oregon. In the semifinals, Shelstad led West over Sierra Canyon, 86-69, with a game-high 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field. He also had seven rebounds and three assists.
Bronny had 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting along with four rebounds and two assists.
In the final, Shelstad led West Linn past then-No. 1 Duncanville (Texas), 62-50, with a game-high 30 points.
“It’s not just about highlights, videos and social media,” Burlison said. “It’s what you do, and to me, no one in high school basketball has had a better senior season than Jackson Shelstad.
“Would I have put Shelstad there (Bronny)? Yeah. She would have put him above a bunch of guys too.”
Like father Like Son?
That could be hard for Bronny.
In 2003, LeBron James earned MVP honors at the McDonald’s All American game after leading the East to a 122-107 victory over the West with 27 points.
The father seems to be more focused on his eldest son than on the exploits of 20 years ago.
“I’m so proud of you!” James wrote on Instagram when the selections were announced. “Keep being you through it all, no matter what! You are really incredible!!!”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bronny James has a spot in the McDonald’s All American game. He belongs?