LeBron James is arguably the greatest basketball player of
all-time, and his son, LeBron James Jr., has some big shoes to
But should he?
Commonly referred to as “Bronny,” the younger James seems next
in line to join a special fraternity of second-generation NBA
players that includes the likes of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson,
Domantas Sabonis and Jerami Grant.
Those players have mostly managed to live up to the expectations
that come with being the son of an NBA player, but there are many
others who weren’t able (or never even attempted) to fill those
Basketball Hall-of-Famer Gary Payton recently joined former No.
1 overall pick and NBA All-Star Kenyon Martin on his podcast (“Neat
& Unfiltered”) to discuss his son, Gary Payton II.
Payton and Martin, aside from being each enjoying fruitful
careers in the NBA, are both NBA dads. After going undrafted in the
2016 NBA Draft, Gary Payton II had to take the long road to the
NBA — he started out in the summer league before taking his
talents to the G League. He is currently on his second 10-day
contract with the Golden State Warriors.
Martin’s son, Kenyon Martin Jr. (who goes by KJ), was selected
by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 52 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft
and is currently playing under a two-way contract for the Houston
As one might imagine, just as being the son of an NBA player has
its challenges, so does being the father of a youngster who
attempts to follow in your footsteps.
“With you having a son, too, and you going to the games and
being very involved in games, you want your son to be just like
you,” Payton admitted to Martin after acknowledging that Martin’s
son is also trying to find his way as a pro.
“But sometimes, you have to step back and say, ‘He’s not me.’
This is a different generation and things like that, but as you see
this and you get to feel this and then say, ‘He got it a little
bit, he been hanging around me, man!' it makes you feel real good
because you know how these kids make you feel sometimes.”
More so than many others, Martin went public with his feelings
for his son realizing his dream of playing in the NBA. Prior to the
2020 NBA Draft, Martin penned an open letter to KJ.
Perhaps by design, Martin’s message was simple: it’s your time,
son, now go do your thing.
To this point, the younger Martin has been able to heed his
father’s advice, garnering attention for a few standout
performances in both the G League and NBA.
Like Payton II, the younger Martin’s road to this point wasn’t
“They get tired of you,” Payton admitted when discussing his
son, but being the only point guard in NBA history to win Defensive
Player of the Year, Payton couldn’t deny the fact that he took
special pride in seeing his son win the G League Defensive Player
of the Year Award on March 19.
“You think they don’t really be listening to you sometimes
because they’re in their era, but me seeing my son win this
recently and [him] understanding that the defense was there and
that’s what he watched as a young kid growing up with me, it makes
you feel real good,” Payton said.
“You’re like, ‘Yo, he was listening a little bit and he does
have a little talent!' And, ‘He does have something to get down
with like that,’ and that’s what it is about it. I felt great about
my son and I just hope he keeps continuing to get better and
better, so he can get on that next level and try to do that same
thing for a basketball team.”
Payton II spoke with BasketballNews.com in March about the road he’s traveled. And it
seems that, long ago, he came to terms with the fact that he’d be
somewhat the shadow of his father. But his solution was rather
Stop caring. Do you.
“You’re probably going to be compared throughout your life,”
Payton II said to BasketballNews.com’s Kelsea
O’Brien. “Growing up, it was a problem for me, I just didn’t
know how to deal with it, but as I got older and wiser, I matured
and I realized that he had his route and I have mine. And don’t
worry about what people are going to try to compare you to, because
we have two different routes in two different eras. So I stopped
caring about that some time ago.”
There’s a lot to be said when it comes to second-generation NBA
players. Although we tend to look at pro athletes as somehow being
superhuman, every so often, we get reminders that they’re people,
just like us.
Basketball dads like Dell Curry, Mychal Thompson, Arvydas
Sabonis and Harvey Grant are among the fortunate dads who have seen
their sons reach higher heights than they were able to
Without question, Kenyon Martin Sr. and Gary Payton are pulling
for their sons to continue to chart their own courses. Legacy is
great, but building one's own, obviously, is even better.