USC’s Bronny James Cleared by Doctors for Return to Basketball 4 Months After Cardiac Arrest

USC’s Bronny James Cleared by Doctors for Return to Basketball 4 Months After Cardiac Arrest
Southern California guard Bronny James joins teammates on the court during warmups for an NCAA college basketball game against Seton Hall in San Diego on Nov. 23, 2023. (Denis Poroy/AP Photo)
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES—Bronny James has been cleared by doctors for a full return to basketball four months after suffering a cardiac arrest, and the Southern California freshman is expected to make his collegiate debut soon—with his father saying he wouldn’t miss it.

A James family spokesperson said in a statement Thursday that the 19-year-old will have a final evaluation with USC staff this week and resume practice next week. He will be able to play in games “soon after,” it said.

“The heart specialists have cleared him, which is great,” coach Andy Enfield said Thursday after practice, “and now it’s a matter of getting him back on the court next week hopefully to begin working out with the team full contact.”

LeBron James said after the Los Angeles Lakers’ game Thursday night at Oklahoma City that he'd skip a game to attend his son’s college debut

“I already told my teammates that if they play on the same day we’re playing, I’m going to have to catch them the next game,” James said. “Family over everything. Definitely got to see Bronny’s first game whenever he’s cleared and ready to go.”

LeBron said Bronny handled rehab well.

“We had great doctors along the way the whole time telling us that they believe things will work out for us in our favor, so Bronny took care of his business,“ LeBron said. ”He did everything and didn’t have any setbacks. Didn’t try to rush the process of his rehab. He took every step accordingly to plan.”

Bronny didn’t participate in pregame warmups Wednesday night and he didn’t join his teammates on the bench until late in the first half of their 106–78 rout of Eastern Washington. He joked and smiled with the other reserves and he stood at the rear of the huddles during timeouts.

The Trojans (5–2) play No. 11 Gonzaga in Las Vegas on Saturday. Their next home game is Dec. 10 against Long Beach State, a day the Lakers are off, which could allow LeBron to watch his namesake son’s debut. After that, the Trojans hit the road for four straight games.

“That’s not my decision and it’s probably too early to speculate,” Enfield said. “He’s been out of basketball for quite a few months, so we’ll be patient with him and once we get the green light we’ll get him into games.”

USC fell out of the AP Top 25 poll this week after a two-point loss to Oklahoma last week.

“We’re excited, but we'll be even more excited when he’s actually out there with us playing,” leading scorer Boogie Ellis said. “That’s definitely a piece that we’re missing.”

While Bronny will be a welcome addition to USC’s rotation, he'll need time to acclimate to game action. He has been on the court for pregame warmups twice in recent weeks, doing some rebounding and taking shots but also watching his teammates. He’s also been at practices.

“We’re all ready to have him back,” said forward Kijani Wright, who played in high school with Bronny. “It'll just be another guard component that we have, add more fire.”

Bronny need look no further than teammate Vincent Iwuchukwu for inspiration. The 7-foot-1 sophomore suffered a cardiac arrest in July 2022. He began limited practice last December and made his debut in January. He played in 14 games last season, averaging 5.4 points and 2.5 rebounds.

Iwuchukwu was the top player off the bench Wednesday night, with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Bronny was found to have a congenital heart defect that was treatable. He suffered a cardiac arrest in July during a workout at Galen Center.

“When you go through something like this, it puts everything in perspective and truly understood that nothing else matters besides your loved ones at that moment,“ LeBron said. ”Just stop everything that you’re doing and it’s literally, ‘How do we help him or help your loved one get better?’”

Bronny was a McDonald’s All-American just like his father. The 6-foot-3 guard played at Sierra Canyon School in the Chatsworth section of Los Angeles and chose to stay close to home in picking USC.

By Beth Harris