It was the All-Star break in February of 2018, and LeBron James’ family was on my flight back to Cleveland from Los Angeles — where the NBA’s annual midseason celebration was held.
LeBron and his wife, Savannah, headed somewhere for a quick vacation before the season resumed, but their two boys had school to get back to (their youngest, a girl, was in preschool).
After an uneventful flight, the celebrity children, their maternal grandmother, and a Cavaliers’ security official walked quietly through the concourse at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, from Gate C Twentysomething — the farthest from baggage claim — with the rest of the passengers from that nonstop United flight out of LAX.
They stood patiently next to the Superman exhibit at baggage claim, which is on the ground floor until the orange lamp was lit, the siren sounded like someone had just scored a hockey goal or like a barge was pushing off from the dock, and the luggage began pouring out of the wall and onto the slow-moving conveyor belt.
The Cavs’ security man was a few feet over from me, preparing to grab the family’s bags as they slid past, but Grandma wouldn’t have it. “Bronny, go over there and help Rob (security man) with those bags,” she instructed, and the 13-year-old who bears the same name as arguably the greatest player in NBA history walked, without protest, over to start pulling the bags off the belt.
The boy I watched heed his grandmother’s orders, with not even a hint of sass, is now a young man. His finishing years were spent in Los Angeles, while his father was (and still is) starring for the glitzy and glamorous Lakers, and Bronny’s headed to the University of Southern California on an athletic scholarship to play basketball.
“He’s a great kid,” an extremely proud papa said Saturday night, shortly after the LeBron-led Lakers beat the Warriors in a playoff game, and a couple of hours after Bronny announced his college choice on Instagram.
“USC is getting a great kid,” James said. “He’s there to play basketball, but they’re gonna be super surprised how great of a kid he is, even though they’ve been recruiting him for a while.”