USC commit Bronny James makes smart NIL decision staying home

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos05/06/23


National Signing Day came back in November for most basketball players. The James family runs on its own time, however, allowing Bronny James not to rush his own process and decision.

For many high-profile basketball players, the opportunity to play for a top-25 program would not call for pause but a decision. Yet not many 18-year-olds are starring in advertisements for the Fast & Furious franchise before high school graduation. 

A five-star recruit in the 2023 recruiting class, according to On3, James finally made his decision Saturday afternoon with his commitment to USC. With his father playing in the Western Conference semifinals later tonight in Los Angeles, he quietly made an Instagram post making his decision known.

Something only Bronny James could nonchalantly do.

With a May 17 deadline to sign a National Letter of Intent, he made sure to exhaust each option. That’s something only a James would be given the time to do. 

Going to college was never a given. Other options included a G-League or Overtime Elite stint. A year of overseas play before the NBA draft was in consideration. Heck, NBA stars weighed in with their thoughts. Kevin Durant publicly urged Bronny James to try the college route on a podcast.

Nothing about this recruitment has been normal: LeBron James’ oldest son is trying to make a college decision. All of it served as a reminder of how uncommon Bronny James’ college experience is about to look like. 

Following a similar path to his father’s by going to Ohio State would have been the nostalgic storyline. He could have got a headstart on his shoe design in Nike’s backyard at Oregon

Staying in Los Angeles allows for his father to easily shoot over to a Trojans’ midweek game at the Galen Center, though. It’s a main reason why the future NBA Hall of Famer pushed for his son to seriously consider attending USC, a source told On3. USC won’t complain about the extra foot traffic at games, either. 

The NIL options are endless. As a high schooler in California, James has already been capitalizing on his family’s name and social media following. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound combo guard signed with Nike in October next to the brand’s future class of basketball stars. A week after, he signed with first Beats by Dre and starred in promotional content with his father, who was the brand’s first-ever ambassador. 

That is only a taste of what could be coming. Los Angeles provides all the resources he needs to shoot quality content for brands. Most companies who will want to align with him have offices in the City of Angels. Filming a commercial and zipping back to campus for practice will be an average afternoon.

His marketability is not even affected by his on-court production. James is the most followed high school or college athlete in the nation with 12.8 million combined followers from Instagram and TikTok. The senior at Sierra Canyon has a $5.9 million On3 NIL Valuation, the highest of any athlete in the On3 network. The annual projection is sky-high because of his value to brands. 

Nothing will really come as a surprise. A well-known Nike school, James will be able to rep the brand at USC. Becoming the first college athlete to drop a shoe deal would almost seem fitting in time for his freshman season. 

Plenty of brands have spent their marketing dollars by leveraging the name, image and likeness of college athletes. Could the USC commit bring new companies into the mix? Say prominent sponsors of his father, State Farm Insurance and Kia?

Or maybe HBO or Netflix will reach out to SpringHill Company about filming a documentary of Bronny’s time playing college basketball? That would surely come with a lucrative advance and more eyeballs on his brand. 

He will be the furthest thing from a typical college athlete in the NCAA’s new era. James is repped by Rich Paul and Klutch Sports Group and is a social media influencer. Getting him to post content won’t be a struggle. 

His agency also won’t spend much time on the phone with the USC NIL collective. Securing an advantageous NIL package never factored into Bronny James’ recruitment. LeBron James reportedly became a billionaire in 2022. Endorsing a collective would be a bigger win for the organization than for James. 

Bronny also strong fit for USC

Basketball was not forgotten in this decision. The Trojans finished third in the Pac-12 this past season and fell as a No. 10 seed in the first round of the NCAA tournament. James might not make the team an instant title contender, but he will have a role on a competitive team. 

USC’s top returning player, Boogie Ellis, coincidentally plays the same exact position as Bronny James. On his visit to campus last week, head coach Andy Enfield laid out the plan of contributing as the sixth man, according to a source. The Trojans have done everything to make room for his arrival, especially with four-star point guard Silas Demary Jr. requesting for his National Letter of Intent release last month. 

Just how long he stays put at USC remains to be seen. But the stage is set for James to return for a second year and lead the Trojans into the Big Ten era. Even in his freshman season, Fox and ESPN will have no problem moving around TV schedules if fans want to watch LeBron’s son play. Bronny James leading USC into a new age of basketball in 2024? That could sell. 

Bronny and LeBron James are now definitively the kings of Los Angeles. While his father will patiently wait out his son’s arrival in the NBA with the Lakers, Bronny will be racking up NIL deals in between starring for USC.