From Bronny James to D.J. Wagner, Hoop Summit a collection of NBA sons — Andscape
PORTLAND, Ore. — One of the most notable days in NBA history was when LeBron James debuted as a rookie on Oct. 29, 2003, for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Sacramento Kings. Also on that night nearly 20 years ago, Peja Stojakovic scored a game-high for the Kings, while Michael Stewart did not play due to coach’s decision and teammate Dajuan Wagner was out to injury for the Cavaliers.
Come Saturday, those sidenotes from that historic game will suddenly matter.
All four of those aforementioned players have sons — Bronny James, Andrej Stojakovic, Sean Stewart and D.J. Wagner — who will be playing in the 2023 Nike Hoop Summit men’s game at the Moda Center.
“My dad told me about this,” D.J. Wagner said. “I’m sure they feel crazy just to see their sons in the game. We are kids. We’re hoopers. We don’t talk about it too much. We’re just going through the same thing they went through. We’re enjoying it right now.”
Said Bronny James: “It’s a good opportunity and experience to be a part of the four. It’s a great experience to be part of this history.”
Said Sean Stewart: “It’s pretty crazy they were on the same team. It’s pretty cool.”
The annual Nike Hoop Summit pits a USA Basketball team of high school senior stars against the world’s top young international players. It will be preceded by an inaugural women’s game. LeBron James, Golden State Warriors star forward Draymond Green and other NBA players are expected to be in attendance, sources said. The headliner is James’ son, Bronny, who is the only USA Basketball player competing who is still contemplating his college basketball decision.
“At the end of the day, it’s my decision. I’m going to make the right one to me,” Bronny James said.
While LeBron James is known for his illustrious NBA career, his USA Basketball résumé is notable. The 2012 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year won gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games and the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, and bronze medals in the 2006 FIBA World Championship and 2004 Olympic Games. USA Basketball’s all-time assist leader is also one of just three male basketball players to play in three Olympics.
Bronny James is a late bloomer on the national prep rankings who has climbed up to 28th in the ESPN 100 Class of 2023. The Hoop Summit will be the McDonald’s All American’s first game wearing the USA Basketball uniform, and he said it’s “an honor to be chosen.”
Like his father, the 18-year-old will wear No. 6. Bronny James said he expects his “whole family” to be in attendance on Saturday. Certainly, a lot of eyes will be on him and LeBron James.
“My dad is just proud, and he gave me good words of encouragement to play my game and be myself,” Bronny James said of playing for USA.
Bronny James spoke to a large media contingent for the first time on Wednesday after USA’s practice, according to a Nike representative. While the former Sierra Canyon (California) High School guard has an uber-famous father, is making millions off name, image and likeness deals already and has 7 million Instagram followers, Andrej Stojakovic has been impressed by the humility “of someone with a status like his.”
“A lot of people ask me what he is like because a lot of people spectating at these camps don’t get to the same opportunity to talk to him as the players do. We’re around him all the time,” Andrej Stojakovic said. “It was kind of relieving see him be just another player, not seeing him at a high level. He’s just being him, working hard and staying focused on the task, playing hard with all these people coming to watch us.”
Peja Stojakovic was a three-time NBA All-Star and ranks ninth all-time in league history in 3-pointers made (1,760) during a notable 13-year career. Before going to the NBA, the Serbian played professionally in Greece where he met his wife, Aleka, and gained a Greek passport. The Stojakovics have three children. The oldest is Andrej, who was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 2004 and starred at Jesuit High School near Sacramento last season. Andrej Stojakovic signed with Stanford University after ranking 23rd on the ESPN 2023 Top 100 list. He will be representing his native Greece on the World team during the Hoop Summit.
While Andrej Stojakovic says he and the other four NBA sons were too young to have seen their fathers play in the league, that bloodline has had a major impact on their basketball success and helped them deal with the challenges.
“Them passing down knowledge from their careers is the biggest pro,” Andrej Stojakovic said. “But at the same time all three of us deal with enormous pressure. All three of our fathers were raised in different times. Their odds of making it weren’t very high. So now with all this pressure on us, we’re just trying to build a name for ourselves. Try to divert our legacies from theirs, continue theirs and be our own players.”
ESPN.com ranked D.J. Wagner as the No. 2 player in the Class of 2023 behind fellow Kentucky signee Justin Edwards, who is also playing for the United States at the Hoop Summit. Wagner earned co-MVP honors from the victorious East team after scoring 19 points during the McDonald’s All American Game on March 28. The three-time New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year is a third generation McDonald’s All American along with his grandfather, Milt Wagner, and father. Dajuan Wagner Sr. played for John Calipari at the University of Memphis and his son will be playing for him at Kentucky.
D.J. Wagner is also projected to become a third-generation NBA player. Milt Wagner played 53 NBA games for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. Dajuan Wagner Sr. played in 103 NBA games for the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.
D.J. Wagner says that his dad’s basketball wisdom has helped him greatly.
“It’s really a surreal feeling,” D.J. Wagner said of being one of the four NBA sons in the Hoop Summit. “I’m really feel blessed to be in this game. But we haven’t really talked about it too much … We’re having fun out here. We’re just hooping …
“The best advice my dad has given me is to continue to have fun and keep doing what I love to do. Don’t ever get too down on myself or get in my head too much. Keep having fun as long as I’m going.”
Michael “Yogi” Stewart went undrafted out of Cal-Berkeley in 1997. Even so, the 6-foot-10 journeyman center managed to play 286 games over nine seasons with the Kings, Toronto Raptors, Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks and once blocked a career-high 59 shots in a contest. Sean Stewart, ranked 16th in the ESPN Class of 2023, has signed with Duke University. The Windermere, Florida, native acknowledged that his dad’s NBA career has benefited his basketball career with his words of wisdom and meeting a “lot of great people.”
“Obviously, my father means a lot,” Sean Stewart said. “He got me to this point and instilled that work ethic in me. He knew what it takes to get to [the NBA]. I listen to everything he has to say. The best advice he gave me was to always play hard no matter what. I already take that with me every time I [play].”
Time will tell whether the sons of LeBron James, Peja Stojakovic, Dajuan Wagner and Michael Stewart follow in their fathers’ footsteps into the NBA. But the four elite prep stars playing in the Hoop Summit are a great sign for the future, as many alumni have gone on to play in the NBA.
“We’re just trying to be the best players we can be,” D.J. Wagner said.
Said Sean Stewart: “That would be amazing for us to all get to the NBA. That is my dream for that to come true.”