Panthers punter Johnny Hekker shares critique of NBA prospect Bronny James

on May14
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Bronny James, the eldest son of NBA great LeBron James, traveled to Chicago to participate in the league’s combine. Teams typically send scouts and key decision makers to the combine to get an up-close look at draft prospects.

James finished his freshman season at USC averaging 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. While the 6’1″ James is not considered a “can’t miss” prospect, he is held in relatively high regard due to his athleticism and basketball IQ — not to mention, his pedigree speaks for itself. 

Since declaring for the NBA Draft in April, conversations have swirled about whether James is ready for the league. While certain areas of the 19-year-old’s game will likely develop over time, a Super Bowl champion punter decided to weigh in on the current state of James’ skillset.

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Johnny Hekker walks on an NFL field

Johnny Hekker #10 of the Carolina Panthers gestures as he walks on the field walk on the field during warmups before the game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

Johnny Hekker took notice of a video of James participating in drills at the combine and decided to offer a critique of James.

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“Bro’s catch and release is 2-3 business days,” Hekker commented on a post on X, formerly Twitter, showing some of James’ combine highlights.

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Hekker spent the first decade of his NFL career with the Rams organization before joining the Carolina Panthers in 2022. 

Despite the criticism, James’ future Hall of Fame father likely continues to hope to one day play alongside his son at the NBA level. James has publicly expressed his desire to be one part of a father-son duo on multiple occasions.

“My last year will be played with my son,” James told The Athletic during the 2022 NBA All-Star Weekend. “Wherever Bronny is at, that’s where I’ll be. I would do whatever it takes to play with my son for one year. It’s not about the money at that point.”

Bronny James shoots a free throw

Bronny James shoots a free throw during the 2024 NBA Combine on May 14, 2024 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. (Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers appear to remain open to the idea of drafting Bronny if the opportunity presents itself, but adding him to the roster does not appear to be at the top of the team’s priority list, ESPN reported earlier this week.

NBA teams were told Monday that Bronny James, the son of the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, has been medically cleared to play in the league, a person with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press.

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The clearance determination was likely expected, given that Bronny James was able to play the final 25 games for USC this past season as a freshman. 

He suffered cardiac arrest during a practice session in July 2023 and needed a procedure to fix what was diagnosed as a congenital heart defect, then missed several months while recovering.

The NBA convened what is known as a fitness-to-play panel — three doctors who review medical records — to determine if James should be cleared. They determined that he is “medically able and fit to play basketball in the NBA,” which cleared his path to participating in the combine.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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