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Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards has had back-to-back 50-point nights. Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images
As Told To

Wizards star Bradley Beal: ‘If I can control it, I will finish in D.C.’

The NBA’s second-leading scorer reflects on Washington, John Wall and more

(Editor’s note: Bradley Beal is the NBA’s second-leading scorer, averaging 30.4 points this season, including back-to-back 50-point nights recently. But the Washington Wizards’ 26-year-old star is aiming to make a more lasting impact in the NBA and beyond.)

I couldn’t care less about the numbers.

They’re great. I’m playing at an unbelievable level. I’m happy with my growth, for sure. But I’m also disappointed because there’s another area in which I need to grow in, and that’s winning.

I’m a winner, and my teammates know that. I feel like the organization knows that. Hopefully, the fans know that, because I’m not somebody who is going to come out here and just try to score 50 every game. That doesn’t bring me joy. It’s pointless, because you scored these many points and you lose. Nobody’s going to remember that or even care, because they’re going to think you’re just trying to get numbers. It’s tough, because you’ve got people who pat you on the back like, ‘Damn, bro, you had a good game.’ You have those moments, and they suck.

But at the same time, I’m all about the team and I’m all about trying to win. If winning means I got to go score 60, I got to go score. If winning means I got to have 20 assists, I got to have 20 assists. Whatever it looks like, I’m going to try to go out there and get it done.

I could’ve left.

Wanting to have my jersey retired in Washington one day played a factor in me re-signing. Every night we walk into that arena, there’s five names up there. Those are some of the five greatest to ever touch a basketball. To be on pace to breaking the records that I am now and to be here for eight years already, that’s special. And coming into the prime of my career, you don’t know how much longer you have.

For me, I look at Kobe, I look at D-Wade [Dwyane Wade], I look at Dirk [Nowitzki], U.D. [Udonis Haslem], how they can stay in one situation for a long time.

I hate change. If it happens, it happens. But if I can control it, I will finish in D.C.

For me, I am kind of loyal to a fault. I’m kind of like Dame [Damian Lillard] in this realm that it would probably mean so much more to you winning it in Portland or winning it in D.C., because you know you grinding all those years. Then once you eventually come out of that light, I feel like the feeling would be so much grander than necessarily jumping ship. Jumping ship is kind of the easy way out. But at the same time, there’s no guarantee that you’ll win.

I can sit here and say, ‘Yeah, I can go to Boston, I can go to Toronto, I can go to Miami’ … I can go everywhere everybody wants me to go. But what would that look like? It wouldn’t necessarily be my team to where now I’m in a situation in Washington where I’m being built around.

I know I’m going to have to take these bumps and bruises. I knew this last summer. I knew this, hell, the summer maybe even before that. You just got to grind it out, and stand true to who you are.

Bradley Beal poses with his community service award at the 2019 NBA Awards show.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I’m St. Louis-grounded.

I always say everybody comes from some ‘hood from somewhere. But I just feel like our situation – and granted a lot of people probably feel like this about their city – but in St. Louis, nothing really good comes out of St. Louis. It’s tough because once you make it out, your whole goal is to make sure that you necessarily don’t go back. Your ultimate goal was to get your parents out of there, get your family out. That was my drive every single day.

Seeing the house we were in, it’s a small house and it’s eight of us, seven of us living in it. And that’s like, OK, this ain’t it. Bills ain’t paid. It’s cold in the house, so we got to turn the stove on. That’s a hassle. No water, that’s a hassle. So, I grew up in the same environments a lot of other guys did. I was just fortunate to be able to take it and use it to fuel me to be where I am today.

One thing that I’ve also noticed when I was growing up is that I didn’t have that role model to look up to. I didn’t have that figure. We had David Lee, we had Larry Hughes. But they were young guys in the league. They were living their lives, doing what they were doing. So, for me it was like, OK, well, I’ve never really had them mentor me. I was around them, I knew them. But I didn’t have a relationship with them.

That’s where my AAU team came in. That’s where my desire to build a new facility there for them and my high school, and being involved with that, and just doing more stuff.

So, it’s a little bit twofold. As much as you want to get out, you understand the importance of helping others get out. I always try to get back as much as possible, try to do events, and just try to be that figure of knowing and showing that you can make it out.

I’m the living proof of it.

My mom was the first person to put a basketball in my hands.

She taught me how to hoop since I was 3 or 4, maybe 5. And ever since then, she’s still kind of my coach. She taught me how to shoot, dribble. Pretty much everything basketball-related, it all came from her.

Her and my dad, they both went to Kentucky State. They were Thorobreds. She played basketball and played volleyball. My dad played football and basketball. They were two-sport athletes in college. They’re still together.

Being from a two-parent home was important. I’m getting married. I feel like that’s just a direct correlation of watching my parents. I was blessed to be able to still have them together and be able to still be a part of something that’s not normal in today’s society. A lot of my friends and people I grew up with, or even girls I’ve dated, nobody even really had a set family. They were divorced or their parents weren’t together. So, nobody really had a set example to follow growing up. For my brothers and I, we were always fortunate that we still had our parents fight for us, both working jobs, taking care of the whole family. We kind of were in a surreal world in a way. We didn’t have everything but we made the best of what we had.

We have a lot of pride in our names starting with B. From mom, dad to the oldest all the way down to the youngest, we all got B. Our initials are BEB. It was my dad’s idea. His brothers’ names begin with B as well. So, yeah, it was just something that I think he just wants to keep going.

My firstborn, his name is Bradley II. So, he’s Bradley Emmanuel Beal II. And then the second one is Braylon Elias Beal. I just want to keep the same thing going. My [fiancee’s] name is Kamiah. I have to change her name to ‘Bamiah.’ No, but I keep the train going.

Fatherhood is better than anything I’ve ever been a part of. It is better than any game I’ve played in. I can go score 50 and come home and see my son and that game won’t even matter. Or we can lose by a hundred, I’d be frustrated as all hell, and I’d come back and see my boys and it’s out the window.

It’s amazing that you can love someone so much. Or you can have that type of attachment to someone and they can barely talk back to you. That’s what’s crazy about it. I know it’s a blessing to be a father. I know not everybody has that blessing or is in that position. On top of that, I have two boys. So that’s like icing on the cake for me. I love that. I embrace it every day.

John Wall and Bradley Beal during a game against the Brooklyn Nets on February 26, 2020 at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.

Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

I couldn’t be who I was without John Wall.

When we first got to the league, John and I were actually friends already. I remember the first time meeting him was going into my senior year, AAU trip in Los Angeles. We were playing EYBL. He was literally watching almost all of my games. We exchanged numbers and we were cool ever since then. We stayed in contact all the way up pretty much until I got drafted.

When I first got here, it was kind of weird because he was injured. And then as we grew – second year, we made the playoffs, third year, we made the playoffs – our names are growing, our names are rising. We’re gaining some traction and eventually it comes to a point to where he’s a max player now. And then it comes to a point to where I’m a max player now.

And now here comes the media doing this, ‘Well, who’s the man?’ And for a minute it was kind of, hell, we both felt like we were the man. We weren’t talking about it. But everybody was like, ‘Well, I think Brad feels like the man,’ or ‘I think John might feel like the man.’ And so, it actually came to a point where we talked about it. And it was like, ‘I don’t feel like that.’ ‘Well, s—, I don’t feel like that either.’ And it was like, ‘Well, why are we giving that energy because it’s just really affecting us, it’s affecting our locker room.’ And it shouldn’t. Especially when there’s no problems here.

It just really got to the point where I realized I couldn’t develop into the player that I am today without him. And I feel like it’s vice versa as well. I’ll never say I’m the reason for your success, but he definitely played a part in mine. And I felt like I played a part in his. And I’m not naive to that. He’s an All-Star point guard for five years. That’s huge.

And the last two years I got to see what that feels like to be in control of the ball. To be the point guard, basically. To know what it’s like to be in his shoes in a way. So, it’s nothing but respect from us to this day. We both grew up. We’re both grown men. We’re both alpha dominant. And I think that’s what makes us who we are. That’s what honestly drew us closer is the fact that we realized that we needed each other, and we realized that we could be what we wanted to be if we just left all the noise alone.

And then, unfortunately, with the passing of his mom earlier this year, that brought us together even closer. At that point, it didn’t matter about basketball. Basketball was our way to get away from everything. But now, you lose somebody who was your best friend.

That’s the first thing he told me when she passed. He was like, ‘Man, I lost my best friend.’ And it’s, like, I couldn’t fathom that. I didn’t really know what to say. I was just there for him. I’ve seen Ms. Frances from the first day I got here and she’s always loved me. She’s always treated me with respect. She’s treated me like family. She got the best sweet tea in the world. And it was just tough to be able to see my brother lose somebody that close to him. I wouldn’t be the man I am and I wouldn’t be able to look at myself the right way if I wasn’t there for him.

It took Kobe’s death for me to realize this.

It doesn’t matter, the points, your accolades. It’s the impact you leave. People will forget how many All-Star games you made, forget how many points I scored. That’s all stuff you’ve got to go look up. But you won’t forget that impact I left on you. Me helping you in a time you were down. Just being an impact going out there playing hard, being motivational to other people like that, that’s who you are.

It took a while to understand my platform. I really don’t like a lot of people knowing what I’m doing, at least mediawise, because I don’t do it to get attention from it. I do it out of the goodness of my heart. So, there is definitely a fine line because you want to be seen. You want to show people that you care. You want to show people that you still love the city. You love kids. You love adults. You want to try to help as much as possible. You’re looked at as a role model, as a mentor. And whether you like it or not, you’re in that limelight. You can either shy away from that or just embrace it and flip it into a positive.

I developed a relationship with the Ron Brown [College Preparatory] School in Washington, D.C., the last two or three years. It’s a college prep school, all-boys school, which is the exact same school I went to in St. Louis, the Chaminade. But mine was predominantly white. This is an all-black public school.

I wanted to jump in because I wanted them to understand the advantage that they had, understand the opportunity that they had at a college prep school where you didn’t have to pay. I said, ‘I went to a school from sixth through 12th that was 18 grand a year to go there. And I know damn well I couldn’t afford it. My parents couldn’t afford it.’ I said, ‘I got an academic scholarship, not athletic.’ And there was somebody at my high school who was an anonymous scholarship donor for me every single year I was there. To this day, I have no idea who it is. No idea, no idea.

I would love to meet them, because for me, that’s what drove me every year is the fact that I have somebody out here who has no idea who I am. They probably had no idea who I was. But they’re like, ‘OK, well, we want to take care of this kid.’ And, boom, here I am.

I was motivated. I got to be on my Ps and Qs, because I’m not working for me at this point. I’ve got something bigger to show and prove. Somebody is taking a chance on me, so I can’t fail them. I’m going to try my butt off. I’m going to be a student-athlete first. I was a big-time nerd. That drove me and that stuck with me even to this day.

I loved school. When I went to Florida, I studied biology pre-med. I was en route to be a doctor. That’s what I wanted to do. Science, math, I’m with you all day. And anything else, you can have it. That’s how I always was. My mom was a schoolteacher. She taught gym. Coached multiple sports. That’s where the school and basketball came from. The athletic ability, my dad is talented. That’s where that came from. It just all came full circle.

My brothers and my parents went to HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities). I have four brothers, all graduated. I didn’t graduate from college. The only thing I have up on them is I made it to the NBA. But their thing on me is they got degrees. I’m a competitor and I’m a nerd. That challenges me to want to go back to school to kind of direct everybody in the right direction.

I took the Ron Brown School kids to visit Howard University. It was an educational thing for me as well. I learned that this is one of the only schools that has their law school, medical school and regular university all on campus. You don’t see that nowhere. On top of that, it’s an HBCU. I was trying to get the guys to understand that we have something right here in your backyard.

But how bad do you want it?

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.