It’s not a normal thing to hear a mother describe the death of her son. It stays with you as a reporter. It can haunt you.

It’s even stranger to hear a mother describe her son’s rebirth.

Yet that’s where I found myself in December 2016, standing outside a hospital room in Tucson with Heather Cunningham. Her son, Craig, was a center for the Tucson Roadrunners, a team captain before the new franchise had dropped its first puck, an NHL pro for parts of 4 seasons anticipating his call-up back to the show after scoring 13 points in the franchise’s first 11 games.

On Nov. 19, with the Moose in town visiting from Manitoba, Cunningham skated out for the opening faceoff. Just after a Scottish bagpipe and drum band had finished a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the then 26-year-old, in the prime of his life, collapsed in a heap on the ice.

He’d suffered a cardiac arrest; his heart was not beating. Just bringing him back to life took nearly 90 minutes of rib-breaking CPR, plus the heroic life-saving measures of Dr. Zain Khalpey and the teams at both Banner University Medical Center and St. Mary’s Hospital. But he made it.

He’d go on to suffer a major setback, with an infection later taking hold that necessitated the amputation of part of his left leg. But he was alive. And sitting with Heather in that hospital room less than a month after his original cardiac arrest, you could see the toll the whole ordeal had taken on her.

“I watched my son die right in front of my eyes,” she said, her voice cracking. “There was not a doubt in my mind. I thought he was gone. From the minute he hit the ice I could tell there was something not right. The waiting was awful. It was the worst. The doctors coming, going, not coming back. Every time they enter the room, you’re like, ‘Is he still here or he didn’t make it?’ It was horrifying.”

I thought of Craig — and Heather — when it was announced on Tuesday that incoming USC freshman guard Bronny James had suffered a cardiac arrest on Monday during practice at the Galen Center but was since released from the intensive care unit and was in stable condition.

“Yesterday while practicing Bronny James suffered a cardiac arrest,” a James family spokesperson said in a statement. “Medical staff was able to treat Bronny and take him to the hospital. He is now in stable condition and no longer in ICU. We ask for respect and privacy for the James family and we will update media when there is more information. LeBron and Savannah wish to publicly send their deepest thanks and appreciation to the USC medical and athletic staff for their incredible work and dedication to the safety of their athletes.”

Even if Bronny was not the son of the most famous basketball player on the planet, this would be major news. In fact, the Trojans experienced a similar scenario just more a year ago, when then-incoming USC freshman center Vincent Iwuchukwu suffered a cardiac arrest during a summer workout at Galen Center on July 1.

But the fact that Bronny is the son of LeBron James has turned what should be a private medical concern into an absolute circus, with an 18-year-old young man thrust into the fray like cannon fodder, caught inside an echo chamber of anti-vaxxers and COVID-19 conspiracy theorists.

It is a circus that is unlikely to die down soon, not with Bronny’s famous father already having long drawn the ire of a certain segment of the population and media that just so happens to revel in such pandemic- and vaccine-based conspiracies.

Not when Elon Musk, the world’s richest man once more, took to his own platform to question the roots of Bronny’s sudden illness.

Musk’s X post — Xeet, is it? — on the platform formerly known as Twitter spurred a firestorm of debate and instant condemnation from left-leaning media and the medical community at large.

It also immediately put Bronny in the crosshairs, with pundits questioning his vaccination status and ignoring the fact that African American male athletes have a far greater risk profile for cardiac arrest than young athletes in general.

According to The Sports Institute:

“About 1 or 2 in every 100,000 young athletes experience a sudden cardiac arrest each year. Males are at greater risk than females, and African American athletes are at greater risk than Caucasian athletes. For example, about 6 in every 100,000 college African American male athletes have a sudden cardiac arrest each year. For reasons we don’t understand, the risk seems to be higher in football and men’s basketball. The rate is highest among NCAA Division I male basketball players, whose risk is 20 per 100,000 per year.”

That is an alarming statistic, and something that requires far greater energy and resources than baseless questions about vaccines and conspiracies.

Perhaps this is the kind of watershed moment that sheds a light on a topic that impacts far more than one person.

But let’s not lose sight of that person. Bronny was a moderate prospect who worked himself into a potential 1st-round pick, just weeks away from beginning a freshman year that has so much promise. Now his future is in question; his playing status a total question mark. There will be those who implore him to stay off the floor for the simple reason that, unlike for his famous father, basketball does not need to be the central factor of his success. Bronny James will be a success in whatever field he enters, with a massive fanbase who follows his every move, the least interesting of which happen on a basketball court.

Let us also not lose sight of LeBron, by all accounts as spectacular a father as he is a player and businessman, and what he’s going through right now. He joins Heather Cunningham in a long and unenviable list of parents who’ve had to watch their sporting sons captured by the unforgiving claws of sudden cardiac arrest.

Craig Cunningham’s career was cut short by his cardiac arrest. Vincent Iwuchukwu recovered and played in 14 games for the Trojans last season, starting 5 and averaging 5.4 points per game. He is expected to play a major role for a USC team that has major expectations this year. And Bronny factors into those very expectations.

However this ends up for him — whether he ever steps foot on the floor for the Trojans or never plays again — he deserves a chance to live a life free of gossip and rampant speculation. That’s the very least he deserves.