Bronny James Could Make Marketing Waves Even in NBA Draft Round 2

With the second round of the 2024 NBA Draft on Thursday, one huge question swirling around is, who’s picking Johnny Furphy? But there’s a much larger question, of course: Who’s picking Bronny James?

Yes, there had been a little fan speculation that LeBron Jr., better known as Bronny, could have been picked late in the first round as the ultimate risky pick. However, every major mock draft and basketball analyst of note pegged Bronny to be a late second-rounder, primarily with one of the only two teams the former USC Trojan guard worked out for, the Los Angeles Lakers. (The Phoenix Suns were the other.)

Last July, prior to his lone year at USC, Bronny suffered cardiac arrest during a workout at the school. His recovery understandably delayed his collegiate debut, but once he was cleared to play, the combo guard appeared in 25 games, averaging 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. James was lauded for his defense, though his offense remains a work in progress.

It’s clear that Bronny’s bloodline—and his father’s stated wish to play with his son before he retires—are what has teams intrigued by him despite wide consensus that he’s not yet ready for the NBA. He’d be far from the first pedigree pick in league history, and a few sons have outpaced their fathers’ contributions to the NBA (see Curry, Stephen).

Yet no other legacy kid comes into the league with the resources and following that the 19-year-old has.

Though NIL valuations are an imperfect science, On3 most recently valued Bronny’s NIL ventures at $3.2 million, which is less than half of what the number was last July when the firm placed the valuation at $7 million thanks to deals with Google, Beats by Dre and Nike. However, one absolute is Bronny’s significant social media audience, with 8 million followers on Instagram and 5.4 million followers on TikTok.

Eric Smallwood, the president of the marketing consultancy Apex Marketing Group, said things must fall the right way for a team to maximize the audience Bronny will bring.

“Take the Caitlin Clark effect,” Smallwood said in a phone interview. “The merchandise went, and that was very unique for WNBA. I would think jerseys get sold out in a quick, short amount of time. Again, depends on the team and the market.”

And as a second-round pick, Bronny would have long odds to make the main roster unless a team believes he’s the key to signing his dad, currently a free agent. However, he could be designated a two-way player by an NBA club, meaning that he could spend most of his time with its G League affiliate and get called up by the parent team as needed, drawing a salary for service time with both teams and not count against the parent team’s salary cap. The developmental team could have its own “Bronny James effect.”

“These second-round picks really don’t play much and are lucky if they’re even still in the league a year later,” Smallwood said. “If he gets a two-way (contract), wherever the G League team is affiliated with the parent league team will sell out tickets. These venues are small, so tickets sell for the G League in anticipation. The Las Vegas Summer League (where nearly all rookies participate) would have direct impact.”

Per Sportico’s breakdown of rookie contracts, second-round picks do not have salary restrictions, and selections may sign for the league minimum ($1,276,599 for the upcoming season) or be designated as two-way players.

Bronny may not need the cash, per se, but his earning potential as a player can only grow with more time on the court. “And then the question would be, a shoe deal,” Smallwood said. “What’s next? Does he do a shoe deal if he’s going to be on a G League team that has some some sway with Nike?”

While the idea of G Leaguer with a shoe deal seems strange, it’s not a new one. Portland Trail Blazers point guard Scoot Henderson signed a multiyear, seven-figure deal with Puma while playing for the G League Ignite before being selected No. 3 in the 2023 NBA Draft. In a time where an elite NBA player could create a signature shoe for his father, nothing’s off the table. If a sneaker brand was willing to take a chance, Bronny might know someone who could broker a deal.

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