By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
Within the last few months, top high school basketball recruits Josh Christopher and Makur Maker have surprised many observers by each taking official visits to Howard University, a premier historically Black university in Washington D.C..
LeBron James’ son isn’t a senior like Christopher and Maker, but like those two, LeBron “Bronny” James Jr. is an absolute prep school star, a Southern Californian and a kid who may not play down the possibility of him spending his one-and-done season at an HBCU, in his case North Carolina Central University, who recently made an official scholarship offer to Prince James, adding to the 15 year old’s list of offers that already include powerhouses Duke University and the University of Kentucky.
It is very encouraging to see top talent considering HBCU’s within their top schools of choice, after generations of young excellent Black talents hardly giving any thought to such schools. Its still likely that those other top recruits end up matriculating to predominantly white institutions, it’s still likely for Bronny as well, but for the scion of the greatest basketball player of his time to consider an HBCU is a big deal.
Throughout his 17-year NBA career, Bronny’s father, King James, has established himself as a man who’s talent and energy enlivens multiple entities. Besides his dominating play and the awards and championships attached to his name, James Sr. has seriously taken on the roles entrepreneur, businessman, educator and activist in establishing significance and authority to the James name.
One can even go so far to apply the label Savior to James, given the life transformations he has been behind in giving back to his home region of Akron and greater Northeast Ohio. Various businesses and the “I Promise” school, which serves as an education vehicle for underprivileged kids/students, has done much spiritually and emotionally revive many folks who had come to feel left behind by society.
With his firstborn prince coming through the ranks as a freshman at Sierra Canyon, the younger James will likely be expected to add to a legacy that very few top basketball recruits have to ever reckon with.
In aligning himself with the HBCU community, Bronny gives himself a chance to kick start his own chapter of the still-written James saga, while making his story stand out from his Pops, something that won’t be easy to do.
As an HBCU student, Bronny would give himself a direct connection to many of the most excellent and ambitious Black Americans of his generation — so many of them flock to HBCU’s across the country because these schools have a lot to offer in both education as well as athletics.
HBCU alumni form the backbone of Black professionalism in America generation after generation, their grads form a plurality or an outright majority of Black representation in many white-collar professions, including judges, lawyers, doctors, engineers, politicians and CEOs.
These up and coming professionals will form an early alignment with Bronny, a natural network and a fortified foundation of support that would serve James Jr. well whether he winds up completely following the footsteps of his father or doing something completely different, like staying in college for three to four years and collecting his Bachelor’s degree.
Either way, Bronny will be continuing his life as a celebrity kid and as the eldest kid of James, greatness will be assumed.
Going to an HBCU could be empowering, especially while learning what it means to be a young Black man and finding your manhood within yourself during your college years. Reggie Johnson Jr. played basketball at the historically Black Hampton University in Virginia, recently he told WARR Media about his on-court and off-court experience at an HBCU.
“Being a part of an HBCU shows that you are a part of culture. Being a student was very educational and helpful for my growth as a man,” Johnson told WARR Media. “It’s a lot more to just being an athlete and a lot more than just basketball.”
From an athletics perspective, Bronny can take on the challenge of changing the narrative regarding recruiting top tier black athletes. He could take notes from LeBron’s 2011 “The Decision” and create a superteam of players within the HBCU community, something that has never been done in recent history. Bronny can also aid to balance the power when it comes to the influence of money and power between HBCU’s and Powerhouse D-1 schools.
Per Hill’s research in the Atlantic, the NCAA reported $1.1 billion in revenue for its 2017 fiscal year. Most of that money comes from the Division I men’s basketball tournament. In 2016, the NCAA extended its television agreement with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting through 2032—an $8.8 billion deal.
About 30 Division I schools each bring in at least $100 million in athletic revenue every year, almost all of these schools are predominantly white —in fact, Black men make up only 2.4 percent of the total undergraduate population of the 65 schools in the so-called Power Five athletic conferences. Yet Black men make up 55% of the football players in those conferences, and 56% of basketball players.
With the recent changes coming to the NCAA regarding athletes being able to receive income related to their likeness and appearances via endorsements and other such endeavors, Bronny could change the game, bringing more attention and money to HBCU schools and the HBCU community as a whole, establishing those schools as potential big players to rival the schools in large conferences with large legacy TV deals and booster groups with incredibly deep pockets.
LeBron James has taken his time in the spotlight to grow into becoming the most impactful African-American male mogul of his time, one who can do it all: win on the highest level of basketball consistently, continuously give back to his community, and be a spokesperson for the Black community, speaking on controversial issues on a daily basis.
If Bronny wants to follow his father’s footsteps, whether as a world-class athlete, a statesman-like agent of change or both, there is no better way than for him to educate himself and endear himself amongst his peers than to embrace a primarily-Black educational system, one that offers platforms relating personally to every aspect of his life and giving himself a caring foundation of which to build major success before he even starts his professional basketball career.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media