Bradley Beal seems perfect. His eye contact is powerful and his suit spectacular—accessorized neatly with a pocket square, bow tie and spectacles. His seriousness makes it hard to believe he’s 21 years old, but his bright pink bow tie screams the beauty of youth, especially when he smiles. “I’m really laid back but I like to have a little pop here and there—I can’t be too dry,” Beal says. “But I can’t be standing out too much either, I like to have a nice cool comfortable swag about myself. At the end of the day, swag is just your confidence and how you feel about it.”
Beal was in Hollywood, CA, recently making an appearance on behalf of Gatorade at the brand’s annual high school athlete of the year awards, yet another nod to his definite path to superstardom. In recent years, Gatorade has had NBA players such as Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kevin Love attend in a similar role. In addition to his supreme talent, the word is out: Beal is a good dude too. This unique combination of excellence is why the thirst quencher selected him as a presenter at its annual gala.
Beal did his part, looking quite business-like with his delivery and presence. It had a similar tinge to the Wizards’ playoff run where Beal opted for suits during his post-game pressers rather than the hypebeast fits of his young counterparts. “It was the fact that we were in the playoffs and we wanted to represent our team well and show that we were focused and business like,” Beal explains of the Wizards penchants for suited fabrics. “At the end of the day this is your profession, this is your business and you’re representing yourself and the team. Everyone came dressed appropriately and we ended up turning it into a competition—it’s always a competition on our team.”
Beal was a critical piece to Washington’s resurgence, helping lead them to a 44-38 record last season, their best mark in nearly a decade and good for the 5-seed in the East. Washington beat the Bulls in Round 1 before being eliminated in Round 2 by the Indiana Pacers. Beal averaged 17.1 ppg in his second season, energizing fans with his future promise.
“I got some things in my back pocket,” says Beal of his ongoing development. “My confidence is going to continue to grow and grow and grow. That’s what it all is. Of course you have to improve on your strengths and weaknesses but you have to always have that confidence and swagger about yourself that you’re going to continue to be a good player in the League.”
Two years in and the sweet shooting 2-guard finds himself consistently mentioned among the best shooters in the NBA, a distinction he’s proud of. “There are a great handful of players in the League that can really shoot the ball,” Beal says. “You’ve got Steph [Curry], you’ve got Klay [Thompson], that’s two guys on one team that can really shoot it well! You have Ray Allen still in the League and a bunch of other guys that can shoot the crap out the ball. For me to be included in that category makes me want to get better. It’s an honor and blessing to be discussed among those guys and hopefully I can continue to knock them down and surpass them.”
Beal says the key to his stroke is a consistent, clean release. “Great shooting is the same repetition every single time,” he says. “It’s muscle memory, hand placement on the ball and a focus on the rim. The biggest thing for me is confidence. You have to believe that every shot you take is going in whether it’s a fadeaway, a floater, a layup, a free throw and of course, a three-ball. You have to believe in yourself that it’s going down.”
Beal is Las Vegas this week at team USA Training Camp, hoping to earn a spot on the roster for the FIBA World Cup held in Spain. He’s been joined by his backcourt running mate John Wall, a late addition to the player pool.
“I don’t know what it is but since day one we have clicked,” Beal says of Wall. “We both love to play fast—I shoot the ball and he’s a great pass-first guy and he can score the ball too so I can dish it to him—so it’s kind of like we just play off each other. He’s been my big brother ever since high school, so the chemistry has always been there. It’s really been a matter of running out to an open spot because he’s so fast with the ball, and being able to have the confidence to knock it down.”
Beal is thrilled about competing for a roster spot, but more importantly, getting back to hoops. “Of course there is going to be some sacrifice because you’re not the only one who can score the ball, you’re not the only one who can do certain things on the floor,” Beal says of the Team USA challenge. “It’s about sacrifice but at the same time you bring something to the floor that coach wants. I have to be able to showcase that talent. I’m excited to get going again. I kind of wish the basketball season was year-round.”