Besta Beal witnessed her son Bradley reach his NBA dreams last Thursday evening in Newark, New Jersey. She saw him walk across the stage after being selected third overall in the draft by the Washington Wizards and shake David Stern’s hand. It was official.
Mama Beal beamed proudly at the sight, but was able to keep her emotions in check on her son’s big birthday night. That is until Bradley was welcomed to Washington, D.C. at a press conference the next day. Then, the tears of joy rolled out.
“I wanted to cry (at the draft), but I didn’t feel it. Until we sat down, saw him front all of you (the media), it all came out,” she said.
Bradley’s father, Bobby, battled a similar bout of affectionate restraint.
“When he held up the Washington jersey with his name on it, man, it hit me. I covered my eyes with my arm so no one when would see me crying like a little boy.”
Raised by blue-collar parents as the middle child in a house of five boys, Beal’s upbringing and ascension to the NBA epitomizes the story of hard-working American values.
Family, Persistence, Preservence, Character
Besta is a high school teacher; Bobby has been retired since being laid off from a Chrysler automotive plant in St. Louis that closed in 2009. Bradley’s two older brothers, Brandon and Bruce, played college football and will move in with Bradley to help him adjust to living in D.C. His younger twin brothers, Byron and Bryon, are football lineman recruits entering their junior years at the same high school, Chaminade, where Bradley starred.
As a youngster, Besta taught Bradley how to shoot a basketball and made him choose basketball over football. As told to Dana O’Neill in a January 2012 article on ESPN.com:
“He pretty much played both until the ninth grade and then Kansas gave him that first look,” Besta said. “I told him he needed to make a decision, which sport would be his. He didn’t think it would matter, but I told him it did matter. Once we saw KU, I told him, ‘That’s it. That’s your meal ticket.”
Bradley focused on hoops and looked towards his older brothers’ athletic success as a clear model of how sticking with a labor of love can pay off. From the ESPN article:
Once he picked basketball, he poured himself into it. Blessed with his family’s genetics, he also was imbued with their work ethic. Besta remembers on more than one occasion when she’d come home from work only to be nagged by her son to take her [sic] to the gym. She’d hold him off by asking for an hour’s nap.
“And don’t think he didn’t wake me up,” she said. “One hour later exactly.”
Beal’s talent shined, and he was recognized as the nation’s top high school player in his senior season. But at the University of Florida, Bradley faced his first ever basketball adversity in the form of an early season shooting slump. Beal ended the last two games of 2011 and began the first two of 2012, including Florida’s SEC opener, going a combined 2-for-16 from the college 3-point line.
His parents, worried, took a long road trip to help their son through his difficulties. Besta diagnosed the issue to be more cerebral than mechanical.
“He was thinking that every shot wouldn’t fall and he just was not having fun.”
During their visit, Bradley found his old stroke in a 70-48 home win over Georgia by nailing 4-of-6 3-pointers. From there, he upped his game and carried the Gators all the way to the Elite 8. He learned a valuable lesson from the tumultuous experience.
“That was the first time I’d really been through (a slump), so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how to handle it” Bradley said. “Now that I’ve been through it, if it ever happens again, I know what to do. The way I got through it was just having fun. I think I lost sight of that. I was too busy trying to force the ball in the basket.”
His appreciation for his family and what it has meant for his basketball career is clear.
“Both of my parents have always been supportive and behind me 100%, and they both have always told me to stay level, stay humble, stay grounded, always want to reach your fullest potential. And never be satisfied with anything. And I believe without them that I wouldn’t be here.”
In a few interviews with Bradley, I have been struck by what a polished, bright, and genuine dude he seems to be. This sentiment is shared by others who have spent time with him. Alex Tarshis, a representative of Beal’s from Priority Sports, told me how impressive Bradley was throughout the NBA interview process, and how he was a natural at answering any question thrown his way.
Beal’s high character also struck a chord with Wizards coach Randy Wittman.
“Who he is as a basketball player is great, but who is as a person is even better,” praised Wittman. “That is what really was the icing on the cake for me. When I had a chance to sit down with this young man and talk with him, I commend his parents, you guys ought to be very proud in the job you did in raising him. You will soon see this as the year moves on, what a quality kid he is.”
Coaches of Beal along the way would agree.
Chaminade Prep coach Kelvin Lee:
“Bradley is not a selfish kid. Bradley is one of the best kids that you will ever be around. We are talking about the total package with him, good person, good student, and a great player.”
Florida assistant coach Matt McCall:
“Brad is the type of person who could stop playing basketball today, not ever dribble a ball again, and decide he was going to be an astronaut or go to medical school and somehow he would figure out how to get it done,” McCall said. “Whatever he sets his mind to do, I believe he can do it. That’s just his makeup. He has an inner drive to be great. And such a nice a genuine human being.”
The Washington Wizards have added to their roster a talented, smart, driven, level-headed, and family-oriented guy who people love being around. Beal has a mature perspective on life at a young age and has already expressed a desire to give back to the community.
Rejoice, Wizards fans, because the team has found a true winner and solid human to get behind.