If you assess Bradley Beal strictly by his on-the-court numbers, you’ll see immediately that he’s one of the most talented young stars in today’s NBA. Look a little deeper into who he is—how he treats his teammates and the people closest to him—and you’ll discover that Brad is one of the brightest, highest-character players in the league.
Few professional athletes can carry the title of role model, but on and off the court, the Washington Wizards’ No. 3 strives to be one.
As the rapper Nelly, a childhood friend, explained to SLAM Magazine, Brad’s future could have gone in any number of directions without having such a strong family foundation to draw from.
“He’s a testament to good upbringing, strong parents, determination and work,” Nelly said. Nothing was given…To see where he is now, is something that you dream about for people that you care about.”
Born on June 28, 1993, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, by Bobby and Besta Beal, there was little doubt that Brad would eventually be an athlete. Both parents played sports for Kentucky State—Bobby was a football player, Besta a basketball player.
No. 3 told the Washington Post that while Bobby taught him how to keep an even demeanor, it was Besta who taught him how to shoot.
He’s a testament to good upbringing, strong parents, determination and work. Nothing was given. To see where he is now is something that you dream about for people that you care about.
“She probably watches film more than I do and she’s up countless hours watching and critiquing my shot,” he said. “She’s been helping me out a lot. Both my parents, my whole family, they’re always behind me 100 percent. My mom, she’s probably my biggest critic by far. That’s what made me into the player I am today, just her pushing me and making me want to do better.”
When he was younger, Brad played basketball and football, excelling at the latter. By his sophomore year in high school, however, Brad decided to focus on hoops.
BUILT ON BROTHERHOOD
There were four other people in Brad’s family who were instrumental in his development as an athlete, and ultimately, as a young man. His two older brothers, Bruce and Brandon, and his younger brothers, the twins Byron and Bryon.
Brad idolized his two older brothers.
“They push me to where I am today, and I always give them credit because they never let me get complacent with anything, and I respect that,” No. 3 told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Brandon was my favorite basketball player, and Bruce pushed me in the gym for countless hours. It’s great to have two role models who you look up to, and at the same time, they’re your brothers and family. That really hits home.”
According to the Washington Post, Bruce and Brandon spent much of Brad’s youth transforming him into a warrior, while Byron and Bryon were set against him as training partners.
“Brandon, a former tight end and shooting guard at Northern Illinois, and Bruce, a former offensive lineman at Alabama State, roughed him up at the neighborhood YMCA basketball court with hard fouls to make him physically and mentally tougher. And twins, Byron and Bryon — both nimble, 300-pound-plus offensive linemen at Bradley’s former high school, Chaminade Prep — forced him to become more crafty during some competitive two-on-one basketball games.”
An incredible work ethic was a hallmark of the Beal family, and Brad truly began to show his when he gravitated toward basketball. His mother and father made sure to keep him focused, but when they needed help, Brad’s brothers did not hesitate to intervene.
“They explained about balancing schoolwork with playing a sport,” Brad told ESPN. “And they also explained to me that once you get to college, you have to listen to your coach. You have to do what he says. In high school you can sort of listen when you want to. That doesn’t work in college.”
At Chaminade High School, Brad emerged on the national scene, capping off his senior season with a jaw-dropping 32.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
By the time Brad reached his final year of high school, he was one of the most highly recruited seniors in the nation. He had already tallied an impressive number of achievements, winning the 2010 FIBA U-17 World Championship with the U.S., and the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year Award.
He decided on the University of Florida, where he was set to play for Billy Donovan, following in the footsteps of another Chaminade High School graduate and eventual NBA All-Star, David Lee.
The year started out with some difficulty for Brad, who struggled in the early months of the season. But by February and March, he had found his rhythm, and played a key role in returning the Gators to the NCAA Tournament for the first since 2007. Led in large part by Brad’s scoring, Florida reached the Elite Eight, falling to Louisville.
In the end, Brad’s freshman year was an unqualified success. He was one of two players to play every game, averaged 14.8 points and 6.7 rebounds, and was the first Gator to make the SEC All-SEC and All-Freshman team in the same season.
Many pundits, including ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, felt that Brad was ready to make the jump to the next level.
Coach Donovan agreed. As he told the Tampa Bay Times:
“Selfishly I’m going to miss not having a chance to coach him….No question based on the information I was able to gather, no question he’s going to be in the Top 10 in the lottery. And no question he’s going to have a chance to move up. A lot of people are not privy to the information I am. There is a definite possibility he will be a Top 5 pick.”
For Brad, it was a bittersweet ending to his college career.
“Coach just told me, whatever I decide, whenever I decide, just make sure you’re at peace with it….When it came down to it, I just wanted to make sure I was comfortable telling coach and comfortable with my decision. And I wanted to make sure I was 100 percent. There’s no looking back now.”
TO BE A WIZARD
Coach Donovan turned out to be something of a prophet. On his 19th birthday, Brad was selected with the third overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards.
His impact was immediate. At the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas—where as Emeka Okafor said, Brad was basically “a college sophomore”—the Wizards’ newest player was one of the clear standouts.
With the NBA season finally approaching, Brad was excited to finally realize his childhood dream.
Washington fans had good reason to be excited, too. Two years earlier, the Wizards had drafted point guard sensation John Wall. Now, they had a dynamic shooter to pair in the backcourt with Wall.
MAKING A MARK
To a large degree, No. 3’s rookie season showed the type of promise he and Washington had hoped for, but it didn’t begin that way. Wall was out with an injury for the first few months of the year, and during that time, Brad struggled.
But as the blog Wizard of Awes detailed, Brad found his shooting touch as the year progressed.
“Fortunately, as time went on and John Wall returned to the Wizards lineup, Bradley Beal started to gain momentum and play like we all envisioned he would out of Florida. He started to shoot the ball with confidence, and in return, was named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for January and December. His progression and development throughout the season was honestly a treat to watch.”
He’s playing the best basketball of his career. He’s more aggressive than he’s ever been, and smarter, too.
— Sports Illustrated
No. 3 suffered a right-leg injury in April, effectively ending his season early. Still, the 56 games he played (13.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg) were enough to earn Brad third place in Rookie of the Year voting, and a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
SOMETHING LEFT TO PROVE
In subsequent seasons, Brad has grown tremendously both on and off the floor, learning to deal with adversity while continuing to improve his game.
Those improvements earned Brad a max contract extension in the summer of 2016, which promised to keep him in the D.C. Family through the 2020-21 season.
According to BB, signing that extension left him with a responsibility to the franchise that wouldn’t allow him to rest on his laurels.
“I know that I’m only 23 years old, and there’s a lot of kids out there who would die to be in the situation I’m in, so this moment for sure is special to me,” Brad said. “They made a huge commitment to me in making me a max player and believing that I can live up to the potential, and I know that it’s upon me to take the responsibility.”
The 2016-17 season held immense promise for the Wiz, as Brad’s new deal led Washington into a new era of sorts, coinciding with the arrival of former Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks. The new coach had an incredibly positive impact for the team, leading them to 49 wins, the franchise’s highest total in nearly 40 years, and back to the postseason, where they toppled the Atlanta Hawks in the first round before succumbing to the Boston Celtics in a tremendous seven-game second-round series.
No. 3 was also a critical part of Washington’s resurgence. He played in a career-high 77 games in the regular season and also averaged career-highs in assists per game (3.5) and points per game (23.1). All the while, he showed that the best may be yet to come, as written in Sports Illustrated:
“Beal came back, and he’s playing the best basketball of his career. He’s more aggressive than he’s ever been, and smarter, too. Long, midrange twos have turned into threes, and he’s getting to the line five times a game.”
His play and desire to keep getting better after signing his extension harkened back to an insight he had after his rookie year about the best players in the NBA.
“I want to try to be better than them,” he told the Washington Post. “I’m like, ‘Okay, I watched them.’ Now I’m at the same level they are at, playing in the same league, and I have to beat them and my team has to beat theirs. That’s how I think.”
Brad’s persistence and focus on continuing to improve his game finally paid off in 2018 when he was selected as one of hte NBA’s best players and named to his first All-Star Game.
It was a career highlight for Bradley, one he won’t soon forget.
“It was fun to get out there and get some run with some of the best players to ever touch a basketball. To be a part of that group was an honor in itself and I enjoyed it.”
Bradley went on to average 22.6 points per game, just a tick below his career-best, while establishing new career-high averages in rebounds (4.4) and assists (4.5) per game.
His best performance of the season, and perhaps his career, came in early December against the Portland Trail Blazers. Beal caught fire against the Western Conference’s eventual three seed and racked up a career-best 51 points in the 14-point victory.
As the season progressed, No. 3 assumed more ball-handling and playmaking responsibilities with John Wall sidelined for a large portion of the season, and he was able to keep the Wizards in playoff position while Wall recovered. They eventually earned the No. 8 seed and took the top-seeded Toronto Raptors to six games but ultimately came up short of their season goals.
However, Brad noted after the season that there was a lot to be learned from the adversity faced during D.C’s 2017-18 campaign and that while it may not have yielded the result they wanted or expected, it does give them the opportunity to grow.
“It was a down year but there were a lot of good things, a lot of lessons we learned, a lot of positives we can take out of it as well, and we just got to get better in the summer,” Beal said.
The season also gave No. 3 a lot to be proud of and even more, to motivate him, to continue improving to reach the peak of his abilities. He certainly hopes to be named an All-Star in the many seasons to come, and he will continue to work towards that goal each and every year.
“It motivates me to get better and continue to be part of this every single year for the rest of my career,” he said.
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