Meritocracy is preached as the law of the land. Many believe you earn what you get through hard work and perseverance. While this may be true in some mysterious land where principles of justice and equality ring true, nepotism is the key to success in America. It’s not what you know or how well one may be able to complete a task, but who you know with power, influence, and resources that can ease your path from start to finish. So when Lebron James says his son Lebron James Jr (known as Bronny for short) is going to the NBA, you better believe the NBA's premier player is doing everything possible to make sure one of the 450 NBA coveted roster spots will be allocated to his heir.
Bronny James is a solid basketball player averaging 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists while in his senior year at Sierra Canyon, a private high school for the LA wealthy in Chatsworth, California. This year when Sierra Canyon faced off against Wheeler Georgia HS, putting Bronny against Isaiah Collier, the number 3 player in the country ranked by ESPN, Bronny led his team to victory with 22 points over Collier’s 17 points. As I said, Bronny James is a solid player, and with all the professional training that the NBA’s best player can pour into his son, Bronny should be quite the ball player. It’s evident that while Bronny has good height at 6’3”, a good jump shot, heady ball-handling skills, and fair athleticism, nothing about his game says phenom or NBA talent. He doesn’t have blow-by speed like Sebastian Telfair, a manchild physique like his dad, or the ability to put up droves of buckets like Dajaun Wagner Sr, who scored 100 points in a single high school game. At best, I would compare Bronny James' basketball abilities to Chris Duhon who came out of Salmen High School in Slidell, Louisiana. Duhon was the best player on his team, considered the top player in Louisiana, averaging 23 points, six rebounds, and six assists, leading his team to semi-state while garnering the Mr. Basketball honor in 2000. These are accomplishments that Bronny hasn’t achieved, and even Duhon had to play all 4 years at Duke before being selected in the 2nd round of the NBA Draft.
So why all the NBA hype around a player that’s considered slightly above average at best? A 2010 US Census Bureau report shows 28% of sons and 17% of daughters will have the same employer as their dad. That same report shows 22% of sons and 13% of daughters worked at the same company while their dad was still employed. Nepotism is American as apple pie. Bill Gates received his first major start when his mother Mary Gates, who served on the board of United Way, convinced her fellow board member John Opel, then-chairman of IBM, to talk with IBM board executives about outsourcing work to a fledgling Microsoft. Microsoft was eventually awarded the IBM job to develop an operating system, which at the time Microsoft didn't have the capacity to build. In another example of nepotism within American society, Sean “Puffy” Combs and his son King Combs both had songs chart number 1 on Urban Radio. And the list of nepo babies runs vast in every industry in America, from politics to Hollywood, fashion, art, and even professional sports. This year the NBA has about 35 players dads previously played in the NBA, including; Devin Booker, Gary Payton II, Jalen Brunson, Kevin Love, Al Horford, Andrew Wiggins, and Jaren Jackson Jr just to name a few.
As America's financial landscape shifts, middle-class America becomes smaller and smaller, making it even harder for so many US families to reach financial stability. The rich keep getting richer while not only hoarding money but opportunities as well. From 2010 to 2020, the US portion of household wealth for the top 1% grew from 28.6% to 31.2%. In actual dollars, that is $17.5 trillion to $35 trillion, while the bottom 50% of US households own just 1% or $1.12 trillion. Basketball is an elite sport - you either have the talent or you don’t. But what happens to those players whose potential is great but doesn’t come from a family in the top 10%? Only 34% of Black NBA players come from Low socio-economic backgrounds, even though many of these poor student-athletes had surrogate families from advantageous communities to infuse their dreams with capital.
Every parent dreams of seeing their kids live out their dreams, but how far are we willing to go?
Are we okay with letting the elites in America control the levers to success for everyone's kids? When the top 10% of US families own 72% of US household wealth, competing against anybody from the upper class becomes a daunting task. In America's caste system, American Freedmen are at the bottom. Has black America become content with vicariously living through a select few of our former caste members' ascension into the top class due to them being hand-picked by white capital because of their unique talents, familial bonds, and their ability to assimilate into white America? Bronny James was born financially successful; he could never work a day in his life and enjoys all the amenities this world has to give. There are kids all over the country whose dream of becoming something better than what they've known will be snuffed out because, in America, you need capital to compete. That capital is being hoarded in small groups and passed down to future generations to ensure the next generation of America's caste system stays intact. While I don’t believe a black family should be the face of nepotism in America, I believe American Freedmen, as permanent bottom-caste citizens in this society, should speak out against opportunity hoarding no matter who is engaging in the act.