NEW ORLEANS – After finishing second in the three-point shootout, the Wizards’ Bradley Beal walked into the mixed zone to speak to reporters and asked, “Do they have some Gatorade back here?”
Beal cracked a smile when he spotted a bottle sitting atop his table. Exhausted after needing an extra round to decide his competition with Spurs guard Marco Belinelli, Beal grabbed a seat in his chair, leaned back and said, “I feel like I just ran 10 miles. I had no legs.”
The Washington basketball franchise hasn’t had a three-point champion since Tim Legler won in 1996 – when Beal was 2 and the team was known as the Bullets. But the second-year shooting guard came close being the second player in the organization’s history to win the crown. He scored highest in the first round with 21 points, then rallied to force a tiebreaker with Belinelli by drilling his last six shots.
Beal gets so much lift on his shot that he wasn’t prepared to have to quickly regroup and shot another 25 balls in 60 seconds for the finale – and wasn’t too pleased to watch Belinelli go first and score 24. “I said something I can’t say right now,” Beal said, when asked what he was thinking. “That back-to-back hurt me. I thought it was going to be 30 seconds and we had to shoot another round. But he shot the ball well. Got to give credit where it’s due.”
When he was asked to participate in the three-point contest, Beal initially thought of declining the offer to let his body rest and recover for the second-half of the season. He had no regrets after deciding to take on the challenge of going up against Belinelli, former three-point champions Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Joe Johnson and Arron Afflalo.
“I’m mad I lost, but at the same time, it’s a great experience,” Beal said. “I might do it again next year, who knows?”
The first time will be special for Beal since had the support of teammate John Wall and hip-hop artist and fellow St. Louis native Nelly, a longtime family friend who used to walk him to elementary school. Nelly served as Beal’s hype man before the contest, warning rapper Drake, who was seated nearby, that the 20-year-old from his hometown was going to shoot well. And when Beal leaned to watch his last three-pointer drop in the first round, Nelly shoved and slapped Beal.
“When I advanced he was like, ‘It’s time to win.’ When I ended up losing, he was like, ‘You shot the ball well.’ It’s always great to have a guy like that,” Beal said. “Whenever you have a guy like that who supports you, he’s well known and has done so many things for me and everything like that, you’ve got to love that.”
On Friday, Beal had predicted that Belinelli would be his toughest challenger since he was the only participant with a higher three-point shooting percentage in the regular season. Belinelli went first in the final and knocked down 19 again. Beal started off slowly and entered his final rack with just 13 points, meaning that he would need to hit every shot to force a sudden-death round – which he did. “I didn’t know what the score was,” Beal said. “I was going by how the crowd was going. If they were steady cheering, I was like I must be close. And I made all the shots on the last rack.”
Beal just wishes that he had saved his first round performance for the second round. His mother, Besta, usually offers a critique after games and he wasn’t sure how she would react to him losing to Belinelli.
“I’m expecting a long text message, or she’s going to yell at me or something,” Beal said with a laugh. “But she’s probably happy I decided to do it and the fact that I made it to the championship round. That speaks for itself.”