Four years later, there was No. 0 all grown up, a boy with the last name of a king turned to a man in front of Crossroads coach Anthony Davis’ eyes.
When LeBron James broke the NBA world by signing with the Lakers in the summer of 2018, he and his family, then living in Brentwood, turned to Crossroads as a nearby eighth-grade landing spot for his eldest son. And even with the boy just playing on the middle school team, varsity coach Davis could tell that the young Bronny James “would be something special,” he said.
Davis, of course, was disappointed when the guard enrolled at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon. But he’s been happy, nonetheless, to see James’ maturation.
“The progression,” Davis said, “you can see it coming.”
It was right in front of him Wednesday night, an annual Sierra Canyon-Crossroads matchup of two elite Los Angeles private schools turning into a showcase for James’ development. Two early left-corner threes proved the kindling to a James heater, as the senior guard buried six threes en route to 25 points and a 77-61 Sierra Canyon win.
The night started with swarming defense and little offense, a lack of A-list celebrities sitting in the Sierra Canyon stands and a grind-it-out first quarter giving the illusion this was your standard-fare high school basketball game. Despite James’ pair of threes, the game dragged late into the first quarter as Crossroads temporarily stifled Sierra Canyon’s high-powered offense with a zone trap.
Then James caught a pass on the left wing, pass-faked to his left, and calmly drained a no-dribble three that drew a rarity of an in-game grin from coach Andre Chevalier.
The Trailblazers limited Crossroads to a mere six points in the first quarter, Justin Pippen clapping excitedly and invigorating the bench after a charge call. But even as James continued to fire away off catch-and-shoots with two more threes and Bryce Cofield skied for some nice finishes in transition, the Traiblazers’ aggressiveness waned, dragging to a 58-38 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“Lock in this quarter!” Chevalier yelled at his starters during the quarter break.
Minutes later, James leapt and rattled the rim on a monster dunk, then came down and buried a catch-and-shoot three with a hand in his face.
“Bronny knows that consistency, bringing his game every single game, is the thing he needs to work on,” Chevalier said. “But this year, he’s been pretty consistent.”
That consistency, Chevalier said, doesn’t just come by way of scoring. It’s defense. It’s passing. It’s IQ.
But after three years filling those roles as more of a connecting piece, James flourished as an in-rhythm top option — a harbinger of the buckets to come.
“Bronny has been through a lot over the years,” junior Isaiah Elohim said. “I think this is his year to really break out.”
Bryce James didn’t play. He had the same bug that knocked out older brother Bronny for the first two games of the season. Sierra Canyon fans will have to wait until at least Dec. 6 to see the James brothers together on their home floor.
James spent much of the night guarding a fellow NBA legend’s son in Crossroads senior Nils Cooper, a Pepperdine commit who grinded his way to a team-leading 11 points.
Bryce Cofield, a sophomore transfer from West Ranch, impressed with 14 points for Sierra Canyon. Senior point guard Dylan Metoyer dished eight assists.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.