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Top recruit Bronny James, LeBron's oldest son, recovering after cardiac arrest scare

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Bronny James, the eldest son of NBA all-time great LeBron James, suffered a cardiac arrest yesterday while working out with his new teammates at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. James, who is 18 years old and one of USC's top basketball recruits, was taken to a hospital for treatment in the intensive care unit and is now reported to be in stable condition. Matt Zemek is editor for TrojansWire. He's been following the situation closely and joins us now. Welcome, Matt.

MATT ZEMEK: Thanks for having me.

SUMMERS: So Matt, what can you tell us about the events that led up to Bronny James suffering this cardiac arrest? Do you have any intel on what types of workouts they might have been doing at the time that this happened?

ZEMEK: From what I can gather and from what I've read, that - you know, he was just going through normal basketball workouts. It's notable that the USC team is preparing for a tour to Greece and Croatia. That tour begins August 5. So I think it can best be described as normal basketball activities - so, like, going through basketball-related workouts, basketball drills. Beyond that, whether it was a shooting drill or running drill, like, I don't know that specifically.

SUMMERS: I mean, this is obviously a very scary situation for this young man. What have we heard from Bronny James' family, particularly his father, LeBron James, the basketball icon who's a household name?

ZEMEK: Yeah. So LeBron and Savannah James released a statement, a brief statement, just saying, you know, that he's been out of the ICU, that he's been stabilized. And they both thanked the USC medical and athletic training staff for acting so quickly to save, to stabilize their son, Bronny. So in the midst of this very unfortunate development, people are going to recognize just what a world-class athletic and medical staff USC Athletics has.

SUMMERS: I mean, USC basketball dealt with a student athlete having a cardiac arrest event this time last year with a different top recruit named Vincent Iwuchukwu, who suffered cardiac arrest and was hospitalized - also a freshman. What can you tell us about that situation and how the team's trainers responded then?

ZEMEK: Yeah, so a lot of credit needs to go to a man named John Yonamine. He's the lead athletic trainer for men's basketball at USC. And his assistants, Erin Tillman and Lauren Crawford, helped resuscitate Iwuchukwu. And this was in the Galen Center during basketball workouts in July of last year. So Bronny and Iwuchukwu, these two USC freshmen, one year apart - so it's interesting to follow the progress of Iwuchukwu not as any kind of, you know, guarantee that Bronny will follow the same path but as just helpful and interesting context.

Iwuchukwu was able to return to basketball activities in late 2021. He played his first game for USC on January 12 of 2023. He played just five minutes. That's another part of the story. That was a medically enforced limit on his minutes - wanted to be very cautious at the start. There's no official word on whether a medically enforced restriction has been lifted for Iwuchukwu. Now, it might have happened. I just don't know. You're probably going to get more details on that as we come closer to the start of the next college basketball season in early November.

SUMMERS: I mean, for folks who do not follow USC sports as closely as you do, Matt, I think it'd just be helpful for us to understand just what kind of player Bronny James is. Like, what can you tell us about him? I understand that he was a top USC recruit.

ZEMEK: You know, in terms of Bronny James, the player, he's not the No. 1 recruit on the team. That's Isaiah Collier, the No. 1 ranked recruit in the country for this recruiting class. Collier is really the main reason why USC's appearing in, like, the top 10, top 15 of preseason polls. But Bronny James was bringing the eyeballs. He was bringing the exposure, television coverage to USC. In terms of who and what he is on the court, Bronny James was expected to be a shooting guard who would play off Isaiah Collier, the point guard. Bronny James was expected to be, like, the catch-and-shoot guy, the three-point shots on the perimeter. That was going to be Bronny James' role at USC. And, you know, we'll see if he is able to recuperate, you know, how USC will look on the court with him. But it seems likely that USC is going to have to start its season without him.

SUMMERS: Matt Zemek is editor for TrojansWire. Matt, thank you.

ZEMEK: Thank you very much.

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Jason Fuller
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.