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Bronny James says he's 'grateful' to have NBA dream in reach after health scare last summer

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Bronny James says he's 'grateful' to have NBA dream in reach after health scare last summer
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Bronny James says he's 'grateful' to have NBA dream in reach after health scare last summer

2024-05-15 08:08 Last Updated At:08:10

CHICAGO (AP) — Bronny James still has some lingering fears. He also has big dreams.

Nearly a year after going into cardiac arrest during a workout, he is close to achieving his goal of playing in the NBA just like his famous father.

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Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO (AP) — Bronny James still has some lingering fears. He also has big dreams.

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Baylor Scheierman, left, and Bronny James warm up during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Baylor Scheierman, left, and Bronny James warm up during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James (50) shoots as Ulrich Chomche (62) guards during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James (50) shoots as Ulrich Chomche (62) guards during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James shoots a free throw during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James shoots a free throw during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James smiles as he participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James smiles as he participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James (50), second from left, drives to the basket past Cam Spencer, left, during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James (50), second from left, drives to the basket past Cam Spencer, left, during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

“It's just a great thing to happen to me, in terms of just being grateful for everything,” James said at the NBA draft combine. “I put in the work and stuff like that to get back, so I feel like I've earned the opportunity. I'm extremely grateful for everything that's been given to me.”

James played in a scrimmage on Tuesday after participating in drills the previous day, when he had his vertical leap measured at 40 1/2 inches and his height — without shoes — at 6-foot-1 1/2 despite being listed by Southern California as 6-4. He also answered questions from reporters, something he didn't do last season.

The son of NBA career scoring leader LeBron James, Bronny James was one of the nation's top prospects when he decided to stay near home and committed to USC last May out of Sierra Canyon School in nearby Chatsworth. But things took an unexpected turn last summer.

James went into cardiac arrestbecause of a congenital heart defect during a basketball workout at USC in late July and needed surgery. He was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and later seen by doctors at the Mayo Clinic and Atlantic Health-Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.

“It was a tough time, for sure,” he said. “All this work that I put in, it just really built me into someone that would never give up. It paid off because I put in the work after that situation, and I'm back to where I want to be.”

James said the possibility that he wouldn't be able to play again was discussed. Even now, the fear from the cardiac arrest “is still lingering.”

“I feel like my parents were a big factor believing in me and giving me the love and affection that I needed at that time,” he said. “I still think about everything that could happen. I just love the game so much that it overpowers it.”

James missed the first month of the season. He averaged 4.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25 games for the Trojans.

“That would set anybody back, what he went through,” said Isaiah Collier, a projected first-round pick after starring as a freshman at USC. “Y'all gonna see what he's really capable of real soon. I feel like Bronny's a great player. He definitely deserves to be here. He's gonna be fine.”

USC went 15-18 overall and 8-12 in the Pac-12 during a season marked by injuries to several players. The Trojans missed the NCAA Tournament after three straight appearances, and coach Andy Enfield left to take the job at SMU.

James declared for the draft and entered the transfer portal on April 5, hours before USC introduced Eric Musselman as its new coach. He has until later this month to decide if he wants to turn pro or play at least another year in college.

The only time James addressed the media last season was following his first game, when he appeared for less than a minute to thank the doctors, athletic trainers and support system that helped him return to play. He did not take questions that day and — despite numerous requests — never granted any interviews. James said he was just following his advisors' advice.

LeBron James, his wife and daughter were frequent spectators at USC games. The elder James has said repeatedly he would like to team with his son. The four-time MVP and four-time NBA champion just completed his 21st season and could become a free agent if he opts out of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. But James also said following a season-ending loss to Denver that he hasn't “given much thought lately” to playing alongside his son.

“The kid has to do what he wants to do — and I don’t want to say kid no more, young man has to decide what he wants to do. I just think the fact that we’re even having the conversation is pretty cool," he said at the time.

Bronny James said his goal is to get to the NBA — not necessarily play on the same team as LeBron.

“My dream has always just been to put my name out, make a name for myself and, of course, get to the NBA,” he said. “I never thought about playing with my dad. But of course, he's brought it up a couple times.”

Bronny James dismissed the idea that a team might draft him as a way to lure his father.

“This is a serious business,” he said. “I don't feel like there would be a thought of ‘I’m just drafting this kid just because I'm gonna get his dad.' I don't think a GM would really allow that. I think I've put in the work and I'll get drafted because of not only the player but the person that I am.”

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Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Baylor Scheierman, left, and Bronny James warm up during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Baylor Scheierman, left, and Bronny James warm up during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James (50) shoots as Ulrich Chomche (62) guards during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James (50) shoots as Ulrich Chomche (62) guards during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James shoots a free throw during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James shoots a free throw during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James smiles as he participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James smiles as he participates in the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James (50), second from left, drives to the basket past Cam Spencer, left, during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Bronny James (50), second from left, drives to the basket past Cam Spencer, left, during the 2024 NBA basketball Draft Combine in Chicago, Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

BADINGILO and BOMA NATIONAL PARKS, South Sudan (AP) — Seen from the air, they ripple across the landscape — a river of antelope racing across the vast grasslands of South Sudan in what conservationists say is the world's largest land mammal migration.

The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, found about 6 million antelope. The survey over a two-week period last year in two national parks and nearby areas relied on spotters in airplanes, nearly 60,000 photos and tracking more than a hundred collared animals over about 46,000 square miles (120,000 square kilometers).

The estimate from the nonprofit African Parks, which conducted the work along with the government, far surpasses other large migratory herds such as the estimated 1.36 million wildebeests surveyed last year in the Serengeti straddling Tanzania and Kenya. But they warned that the animals face a rising threat from commercial poaching in a nation rife with weapons and without strong law enforcement.

“Saving the last great migration of wildlife on the planet is an incredibly important thing," said Mike Fay, a conservation scientist who led the survey. “There’s so much evidence that the world’s ecosystems are collapsing, the world resources are being severely degraded and it’s causing gigantic disruption on the planet.”

The east African nation is still emerging from five years of fighting that erupted in 2013 and killed nearly 400,000 people. Elections scheduled for last year were postponed to this December, but few preparations are in place for those. Violence continues in some areas, with some 2 million people displaced and 9 million — 75% of the population — reliant on humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

The migration is already being touted as a point of national pride by a country trying to move beyond its conflict-riddled past. Billboards of the migration recently went up in the capital of Juba, and the government has aspirations that the animals may someday be a magnet for tourists.

South Sudan has six national parks and a dozen game reserves covering more than 13% of the terrain. The migration stretches from east of the Nile in Badingilo and Boma parks into neighboring Ethiopia — an area roughly the size of the U.S. state of Georgia. It includes four main antelope, the white-eared kob — of which there are some 5 million — the tiang, the Mongalla gazelle and bohor reedbuck.

The survey said some animals have increased since a more limited one in 2010. But it described a “catastrophic” decline of most non-migratory species in the last 40 years, such as the hippo, elephant and warthog. Associated Press journalists flying over the stunning migration of thousands of antelope last week saw few giraffes and no elephants, lions or cheetahs.

Trying to protect the animals over such a vast terrain is challenging.

In recent years, new roads have increased people's access to markets, contributing to poaching. Years of flooding have meant crop failures that have left some people with little choice but to hunt for food. Some 30,000 animals were being killed each month between March and May this year, African Parks estimated.

The government hasn't made a priority of protecting wildlife. Less than 1% of its budget is allocated to the wildlife ministry, which said it has few cars to move rangers around to protect animals. Those rangers say they haven't been paid a salary since October and are outgunned by poachers.

South Sudan President H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit said the country is committed to turning its wealth of wildlife into sustainable tourism. He called on the Ministry of Wildlife to prioritize training and equipping rangers to fight poaching.

Matthew Kauffman, an associate professor of zoology at the University of Wyoming who specializes in research into migration and ecosystems, said the work fits a growing global effort “to map these migrations." One benefit is to be smarter when landscapes are developed to make way for these seasonal movements, he said.

Villagers near the parks told AP they mostly hunted to feed their families or to barter for goods.

A newly paved road between Juba and Bor — the epicenter of the illegal commercial bushmeat trade — has made it easier for trucks to carry large quantities of animals. Bor sits along the Nile, about 27 miles (45 kilometers) from Badingilo Park. In the dry season, animals coming closer to the town to drink are vulnerable to killing.

Officials at the wildlife ministry in Bor told AP the killing of animals had doubled in the last two years.

Even when those involved in the industry are caught, the consequences can be minor. A few years ago, when wildlife rangers came to arrest Lina Garang for selling animals, she said they let her go, instead telling her to conduct business more discreetly. Garang, 38, said her competition has only grown, with 15 new shops opening along her strip to buy and sell animals.

Part of the challenge is that there is no national land management plan, so roads and infrastructure are built without initial discussions about where best placed. The government’s also allocated an oil concession to a South African company in the middle of Badingilo that spans nearly 90% of the park.

African Parks is trying to square modernizing the country with preserving the wildlife. The organization has been criticized in the past for not engaging enough with communities and taking an overly militarized approach in some of the nearly two dozen areas it manages in Africa.

The group says its strategy in South Sudan is focused on community relations and aligning the benefits of wildlife and economic development. One plan is to create land conservancies that local communities would manage, with input from national authorities.

African Parks has set up small hubs in several remote villages and is spreading messages of sustainable practices, such as not killing female or baby animals.

Peter Alberto, undersecretary for the ministry of wildlife, conservation and tourism, said the government hopes the migration can become a point of pride, and reshape how the world thinks of South Sudan.

As for tourism, that may take a while. There aren't hotels or roads to host people near the parks, and the only option is high-end trips for what one tour company official called a “high-risk” audience. There’s fighting between tribes and attacks by gunmen in the area, and pilots told AP they’ve been shot at while flying.

Will Jones, chief exploration officer for Journeys by Design, a UK-based tour company, charges roughly $150,000 per person for a weeklong tour in South Sudan. He said there isn't strong demand.

Locals trying to protect the wildlife say it’s hard to shift people's mentality.

In the remote village of Otallo on the border with Ethiopia, young men have started buying motorbikes. What had been an all-day trip on foot to cross the border to sell animals now takes just five hours, allowing them to double the number of animals they take and make multiple trips.

One of them, Charo Ochogi, said he'd rather be doing something else but there are few options, and he's not worried about the animals disappearing.

“The kob isn't going to finish. They'll reproduce,” he said.

The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage receives financial support from multiple private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content. Find AP’s standards for working with philanthropies, a list of supporters and funded coverage areas at AP.org.

A plane surveys animals while flying over national parks and the surrounding areas in South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. South Sudan's most comprehensive aerial wildlife survey found about 6 million antelope. They used spotters in airplanes, analysis of nearly 60,000 photos and tracking of more than a hundred collared animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A plane surveys animals while flying over national parks and the surrounding areas in South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. South Sudan's most comprehensive aerial wildlife survey found about 6 million antelope. They used spotters in airplanes, analysis of nearly 60,000 photos and tracking of more than a hundred collared animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Tiang, a type of the antelope, hide under a tree in South Sudan's national parks and the surrounding areas, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, June 25, found about 6 million antelope. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Tiang, a type of the antelope, hide under a tree in South Sudan's national parks and the surrounding areas, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, June 25, found about 6 million antelope. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A woman works with flour in Lafon, South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. African Parks has set up small hubs in several remote villages and is spreading messages of sustainable practices, such as not killing female or baby animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A woman works with flour in Lafon, South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. African Parks has set up small hubs in several remote villages and is spreading messages of sustainable practices, such as not killing female or baby animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Cows are visible in Otallo village, South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. African Parks has set up small hubs in several remote villages and is spreading messages of sustainable practices, such as not killing female or baby animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Cows are visible in Otallo village, South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. African Parks has set up small hubs in several remote villages and is spreading messages of sustainable practices, such as not killing female or baby animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Women work with flour in Otallo village, South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. African Parks has set up small hubs in several remote villages and is spreading messages of sustainable practices, such as not killing female or baby animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Women work with flour in Otallo village, South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. African Parks has set up small hubs in several remote villages and is spreading messages of sustainable practices, such as not killing female or baby animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A village is visible near the Badingilo National Park, South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Villagers nestled in and around the park told AP they mostly hunted to feed their families or to barter for goods. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A village is visible near the Badingilo National Park, South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Villagers nestled in and around the park told AP they mostly hunted to feed their families or to barter for goods. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Giraffes migrate in national parks and the surrounding areas, in South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Associated Press journalists flying over the stunning migration of thousands of antelope saw few giraffes and no elephants, lions or cheetahs. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Giraffes migrate in national parks and the surrounding areas, in South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Associated Press journalists flying over the stunning migration of thousands of antelope saw few giraffes and no elephants, lions or cheetahs. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A woman carries antelope skin outside her house in Otallo village, South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, June 25, found about 6 million antelope. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A woman carries antelope skin outside her house in Otallo village, South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, June 25, found about 6 million antelope. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Antelope run through a field as they migrate in national parks and the surrounding areas, South Sudan Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, Jan. 25, found about 6 million antelope. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Antelope run through a field as they migrate in national parks and the surrounding areas, South Sudan Wednesday, June 19, 2024. The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, Jan. 25, found about 6 million antelope. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Local Scouts, who are taught about the importance of protecting the environment and building skills, gather in Lafon village, South Sudan Tuesday, June 18, 2024. African Parks is trying to square modernizing the country with preserving the wildlife. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Local Scouts, who are taught about the importance of protecting the environment and building skills, gather in Lafon village, South Sudan Tuesday, June 18, 2024. African Parks is trying to square modernizing the country with preserving the wildlife. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

David Luwaya, an African Parks staff member, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Lafon village, South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. African Parks is trying to square modernizing the country with preserving the wildlife. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

David Luwaya, an African Parks staff member, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Lafon village, South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. African Parks is trying to square modernizing the country with preserving the wildlife. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A woman stands near a killed bushbuck in Bor, South Sudan, Thursday, June 20, 2024. A newly paved road between Juba and Bor — the epicenter of the illegal commercial bushmeat trade — has made it easier for trucks to carry large quantities of animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

A woman stands near a killed bushbuck in Bor, South Sudan, Thursday, June 20, 2024. A newly paved road between Juba and Bor — the epicenter of the illegal commercial bushmeat trade — has made it easier for trucks to carry large quantities of animals. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Charo Ochogi poses for a photo in Otallo village, South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Ochogi said he's not worried about the animals disappearing. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Charo Ochogi poses for a photo in Otallo village, South Sudan, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Ochogi said he's not worried about the animals disappearing. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Antelope run as they migrate through national parks and surrounding areas in South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, June 25, found about 6 million antelope. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

Antelope run as they migrate through national parks and surrounding areas in South Sudan, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. The country's first comprehensive aerial wildlife survey, released Tuesday, June 25, found about 6 million antelope. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

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