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LeBron James returns for 21st NBA season with relief for Bronny, excitement for Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — LeBron James is dedicating his 21st NBA season to his son, and Bronny James' encouraging recovery from sudden cardiac arrest is foremost in his mind while the top scorer in NBA history gets back to work this week.

“Nothing else matters besides my family,” James said.

But LeBron is also thinking about adding another championship to his collection, and he believes the Los Angeles Lakers have the talent to grab it.

Bronny James is progressing in his rehabilitation from cardiac arrest in hopes of playing for the University of Southern California this season, James said Monday when the Lakers held their annual media day ahead of training camp. James was clearly encouraged by the progress made by his 18-year-old son, who went into cardiac arrest during a workout at the Galen Center in late July.

“Bronny is doing extremely well,” James said. “He has begun his rehab process to get back on the floor this season with his teammates at USC. (With) the successful surgery that he had, he’s on the up-and-up. It’s definitely a whirlwind, a lot of emotions for our family this summer. But the best thing we have is each other.”

LeBron praised USC’s training staff and coaches for saving Bronny’s life with their quick responses after Bronny was stricken. Bronny is attending classes at USC and spending time with his teammates while he gets back to full strength.

LeBron said the health scare was frightening for the family, but ultimately made them stronger.

“We stuck by each other,” James said. “We gave Bronny strength throughout the whole process. We’re happy to see where he is today, and we look forward to seeing what his future still has in store for him.”

The drama also played a part in James' decision that he was both willing and eager to continue his NBA career. James spoke openly about the possibility of walking away from the game last spring after the Lakers were swept in the Western Conference finals by eventual NBA champion Denver.

“I feel like I've got a lot more in the tank to give,” James said. "At that moment, I didn't. I was exhausted. I was tired. Mentally, I was in 20 different places. ... But I'm happy to be returning for another season and helping to lead this team to the promised land. That's just the goal.”

James has peace of mind about his family and a renewed determination to work, but he also has improved health. He missed a month of the regular season shortly after he broke Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's scoring record due to right foot soreness, and he wasn't at full strength down the stretch or in the postseason.

James essentially confirmed Monday that he badly injured his tendon, but he apparently didn't have offseason surgery to repair it.

“A lot of my attention this summer was with my foot and getting that back to pre-injury, pre-Dallas game,” James said. “I pretty much tore the whole tendon on my right foot, so this summer has been a lot of rehabbing that and getting that back to where it needs to be. So far it's been reacting really well in the offseason workout. I look forward to seeing how it reacts in training camp and also preseason and into the regular season.”

James has a strong team around him this season after the Lakers kept most of last year's core. Los Angeles made a flurry of moves at the trade deadline and finished 18-8 before winning a play-in game and two postseason rounds, ousting defending champion Golden State along the way.

“This is the first time since the 2020 run that we're returning the team,” James said. “Besides that run, we've all been dealing with a lot of turnover. So I'm excited about us returning our core and then bringing in a lot of very, very, very good players that can help us continue to do what we're able to do.”

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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press