DAN BICKLEY

Could Phoenix Suns fans truly embrace LeBron, Bronny James?

May 24, 2024, 3:29 PM | Updated: 3:39 pm

Suns fans: Take a look in the mirror. A long, hard look.

Surely, you can spot the scar tissue. The signs of blunt trauma and nightmares that came true. The grinding effect of recurring heartbreak and zero trophies in 56 years.

Then ask yourself:

Do you want to win your first championship courtesy of LeBron James?

It’s a relevant question following reports that the Suns plan to work out Bronny James prior to the 2024 NBA Draft, which is an amazing show of chutzpah from our NBA franchise.

The Suns have the No. 22 pick. They have no second-round selection. They are bringing in a player who averaged 4.8 points in 25 games as a freshman at the University of Southern California, who often watched the end of games from the bench.

On merit, it would be more derelict to select Bronny James with a first-round pick than it was to pass up on Tyrese Haliburton for Jalen Smith.

You only draft Bronny James if you’re looking to help or poach his father, LeBron, in the process.

So, what’s going on here?

For starters, LeBron and Suns general manager James Jones are very close. They were teammates on a pair of championship teams in Miami. There is more than healthy mutual respect between the two.

LeBron once ranked Jones as his favorite teammate. He once promised a job in the front office if LeBron ever purchased an NBA franchise. And in the end, Jones might be providing James with leverage, compelling the Lakers to draft his son without hesitation. Or Jones might be helping the legitimacy of Bronny James as a NBA draft prospect, a player who has little else but bloodline and a strong shooting performance at the NBA Combine.

Remember, Jones has a history of accommodating his former teammate. He famously released Tyson Chandler from his contract one month into the 2018-19 season, just so he could join the Lakers.

Or maybe Mat Ishbia is getting ready to throw another haymaker. Imagine a starting lineup of LeBron, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and fill-in-the-blank.

Many believe true sporting icons like LeBron would never leave sprawling business interests in Los Angeles. But as Booker will attest, one of the great things about Phoenix is its quick-flight, private-jet access to L.A. And in recent years, both Chris Paul and Kevin Durant have joined forces with Booker in Phoenix, a metropolitan region that no longer feels like a small-time outpost.

James currently has a better roster in Los Angeles. But in theory, there’s a greater need and more playing time available in Phoenix for a sharpshooting fringe player like Bronny.

I have no idea how or if the finances work. But the finances won’t matter to LeBron if his endgame is to play meaningful minutes with his son on a basketball court.

The bigger issue is far more personal. The 2023-24 Suns were dispirited underachievers who had two All-NBA selections and couldn’t win a single playoff game, a team that occasionally seemed bothered by the privilege of playing professional basketball. At their worst, they were highly unlikeable.

Thus, a theoretical question for Planet Orange:

Can you go from defying to deifying LeBron, a legitimate nemesis? Can you embrace a player we so eagerly mock? Or would you welcome LeBron and his son and a potential championship that would feel anything but organic, a championship that would be all about them?

After all, he’s a pretty good point guard.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta mornings from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

Dan Bickley

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Could Phoenix Suns fans truly embrace LeBron, Bronny James?