Even before his parents urged his two older brothers to live with him in Washington this season, Bradley Beal was determined to take his family with him on his journey through the NBA.
Beal sketched a design that he wanted etched on his right upper arm: four descending stars, with the letters B-E-A-L inside, and names of his four siblings — Brandon, Bruce, Byron and Bryon — to the right of the stars. The names of his parents, Bobby and Besta, arch above them all.
Besta Beal joined her son at the tattoo parlor when he got his first ink at age 15, and he needed her permission, because otherwise, “she would’ve killed me,” Bradley said with a laugh. Beal provided all of the artwork on his arms — including praying hands with his favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13, on his left arm — but he doesn’t draw much anymore.
His hands are now reserved for that beautiful, textbook release on his jump shot, which convinced the Washington Wizards to draft him third overall last June. And as he prepares to make his NBA debut Tuesday in Cleveland, Beal will continue to flaunt a constant reminder of the support system that got him there — and keeps the St. Louis native grounded at age 19.
“I’ve always thanked them for everything they’ve done,” said Beal, the middle of five brothers. “Because I know a lot of kids don’t have their family, or don’t have one of their parents or don’t have the siblings that I have. But I knew without them, or without them pushing me and without God, of course, I wouldn’t even be here.”
Besta taught Bradley how to shoot and made him stop playing football (his first love) as a high school sophomore and focus on the sport that could take him further. Bobby told him to never show his frustrations on the court and to maintain the same demeanor whether he was playing well or poorly.
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.
Bruce, 24, was the first to notice the basketball potential when his little brother was in sixth grade. Beal hit eight three-pointers in the first half of a game, and Bruce said he would be in the league one day.
“Everybody thought I was crazy,” Bruce Beal said. “I was like, ‘just wait.’ ”
‘On the right path’
Beal made sure they didn’t have to wait long, declaring for the NBA after just one season at Florida. A pre-med major, Beal said he thought he would be in college for four years, but decided to adjust those plans when it became clear the league would call sooner.
Those close to Beal marvel at how responsible and mature he is for someone who won’t turn 20 until next June. Though he is slated to earn $4.13 million this season and is close to signing a multiyear deal with Nike, Beal chose an apartment in Arlington rather than the District to keep down his expenses.
“I’m definitely going to be conservative,” Beal said. “Especially in a city like this, all the stuff that you can do, all the activities and places to go, it’s easy to spend your money and get caught up in that lifestyle. I think I’m on the right path.”
His parents still wanted to help him get acclimated to life in the demanding, and often deflating, world of professional sports. Besta and Bobby sent Bruce and Brandon to live with him, to ensure that there was a support system in place to ease some of the pressures and keep him occupied with positive distractions.
“He’s very intelligent beyond his years, but you know he’s 19. He might have problems at the office. He’ll always have someone there, his brothers, that he can vent to,” Bobby Beal said. “It’s just as much for us, as it is for him. He could go astray easily. Somebody come up to him or they might say something or try to get him to do this or do that. He probably could do it on his own. If they hadn’t done it, I would’ve gone up there.”
Beal didn’t feel he needed the assistance, having already handled himself well in his one season at Florida. But he has found some comfort in returning from his 15-minute drive from Verizon Center to his apartment, and having someone around to watch game film or to play video games. They keep the place clean, make sure the refrigerator is stocked — and Beal is where he needs to be on time.
Brandon, 26, is a manager at an area gym and works most of the time, but he is around when the brothers go to the movies or eat at Hooters, Buffalo Wild Wings or Bradley’s personal favorite, Friday’s. Bruce is home most of the time, sometimes taking Bradley to practice or the airport.