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.