At the Start of His Career, Beasley Isn't Joking Around

A prankster in high school, Miami Heat rookie Michael Beasley has surrounded himself with trusted people to ensure a smooth transition to professional life. Something he won't give up? Watching SpongeBob SquarePants on television.
A prankster in high school, Miami Heat rookie Michael Beasley has surrounded himself with trusted people to ensure a smooth transition to professional life. Something he won't give up? Watching SpongeBob SquarePants on television. (By Jesse D. Garrabrant -- Nbae/getty Images)
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By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

MIAMI -- Miami Heat rookie Michael Beasley, just 18 months removed from high school, became so concerned about the temptations inherent in his transition to the NBA this season that he persuaded a trusted mentor to leave his university job and move into Beasley's new home, acting as something of a life adviser.

Beasley, 19, also brought his mother when he arrived in Miami after the Heat selected him with the second overall pick in the June draft, outfitting her and his four siblings with a six-bedroom, nearly $1.5 million home, far more extravagant than his own place near the Heat's arena. He said he spends a few hours there most days.

Having earned a reputation as an overzealous prankster during high school, when he bounced around four programs in Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts, Beasley has reason to doubt his ability to make all the right moves on his own. Two weeks ago, he was hit with a $50,000 fine for breaking NBA rules -- and initially attempting to cover up his involvement -- at this summer's NBA rookie transition program.

"My life is in a blender," Beasley said. "The game don't change . . . but this life thing is an uphill battle."

But having led Kansas State to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years in his only season there, Beasley has reason to trust his ability to make great leaps on the court. And he does. He said he doesn't merely intend to be rookie of the year; he also aspires to win this season's most valuable player award.

"I want to be MVP, no disrespect to nobody," Beasley said Monday after the Heat's practice at American Airlines Arena. "I don't ever want to be second best. I feel I can walk down those steps to the locker room and be better than everybody else . . . I think going for rookie of the year is selling myself short."

With such big plans never far from his mind, the Frederick, Md.-born Beasley hired a financial adviser, housekeeper and interior decorator, and is looking for a personal chef, all part of the grand plan to shore up the aspects of his life most in need of strengthening, without -- and this, he says, is important -- stamping out his youthful and often goofball personality.

Beasley calls "fast food" his favorite type of cuisine; displays in his master bath a SpongeBob SquarePants shower curtain, bath mat and toothbrush; and recently got his 25th tattoo. He figures if he can manage the off-court challenges brought on by becoming a multimillionaire before he has outgrown Nickelodeon and reached the legal drinking age, life will be very good.

"One goal is to mature, but still stay me," Beasley said. "I could mature and watch SpongeBob every day. I think that's very possible."

That's where Bruce Shingler Jr., a former administrative assistant at Kansas State who coached Beasley as a young teenager on DC Assault AAU teams, comes in. Shingler put his dream of coaching on the college level on hold to become Beasley's roommate, confidant and adviser for at least the upcoming season. Shingler, 27, said he did not want to give up his job when Beasley approached him months ago, but eventually agreed because he thought he could make a difference.

"Failure is not an option," Shingler said. "Not on my watch."

Said Beasley: "I just wanted somebody I know, somebody I can grow with, somebody I trust and somebody who knows my best interests, but at the same time is young enough to have fun, and not be too strict. It just came to me. I knew I didn't want to live by myself in my first year in the NBA."

Beasley's more veteran Heat teammates -- and there aren't many of them on this rebuilding team that finished with the worst record (15-67) in the league last season -- say they, too, plan to supervise Beasley, particularly after the episode in Rye Brook, N.Y., that Shingler described as the most significant "hitch" in Beasley's whirlwind summer.

The Heat's Mario Chalmers and the Memphis Grizzlies' Darrell Arthur were found entertaining two women in a hotel room during the rookie transition program, a violation of the NBA's rules that earned both an embarrassing early exit and fines of $20,000 apiece. When Beasley confirmed widespread rumors that he had been hiding in the room when the incident occurred, he landed an even larger fine: $50,000.

Heat officials have tried to bury the episode, asking media members to drop the issue after Chalmers and Beasley apologized publicly last week, but questions could not be avoided internally. Teammates said Chalmers and Beasley reclaimed their respect when they, as Heat star Dwyane Wade described it, "owned up" to their mistakes during a preseason team meeting.

Beasley "is a big kid right now," Heat forward Shawn Marion said. "We're going to help him get a lot of things under control. He's just a young kid. Nobody's perfect. Everybody makes mistakes. That's what we're here for."

Said Wade: "We're behind them 100 percent . . . [but this type of behavior] will not be accepted, and they understand that, too."

Neither Beasley nor Chalmers seems to have been cowed by the incident. Both cracked smiles and jokes as they went from interview to interview last week, full of life and laughs. Beasley, who complained about being hungry during the lengthy session, gobbled a bag of Skittles at the start of one television interview -- offering a surely unwanted monologue on the various varieties of the multicolored candy as the cameras rolled -- then was ushered to a photo shoot by a Heat official who said pleadingly, "Work with me, and I'll get you a cookie."

Beasley's role in the misconduct was originally unclear, but with rumors flying, Heat President Pat Riley sought an explanation, Shingler recalled. Asked if it was difficult to fess up to the legendary coach who this summer was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, Beasley grew serious.

"For a kid, maybe," he said. But "we're all grown. I came to realize that in the last couple months. I'm not a kid anymore. I got to face every situation like a man."

Besides handling marketing and promotional requests for Beasley, Shingler said, he has talked with him daily about managing his new life. Beasley, who will earn $11.6 million over the next three years, splurged on a $170,000 black Bentley Continental Flying Spur and dropped $2,000 during a recent shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue for True Religion jeans and shirts, but he fashioned himself a safety net: His financial adviser is investing one-third of his income.

Of course, if Beasley lives up to his promise on the court, he can supply the entire Heat squad with plenty of jeans, even at $300 a pair.

"Guys who've been in the league 10, 11 years can't score like him around the basket with each hand," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "For him to be 19 years old, he's definitely ahead of the game."

Frank Martin, Beasley's coach at Kansas State, said his top freshman's reputation as a jokester and prankster -- as a junior at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., Beasley painted his name on items all over campus, including a school administrator's car -- has been overblown. Beasley, Martin said, appreciates structure and discipline. When he began his short career with the Wildcats, Beasley could bench-press 185 pounds four times. By the time he left, Martin said, he could do it 27 times. And, Martin added, in one year, Beasley grew from 218 pounds to 243 pounds.

"Michael is by far the best teammate I've ever been around," he said by phone from Manhattan, Kan. "People migrate to him because of his personality. He's so optimistic about life, so enthusiastic.

"But when it's time to work, he's not joking. He's working."

Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company