WASHINGTON — The event was set to begin at noon, but as media trickled in during the half-hour before, Wizards star Bradley Beal was already there at the Benjamin Banneker Recreation Center where he partnered with Hoop For All to refurbish their outdoor basketball courts. Beal was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and to interact with local fans and kids.
It was just the latest charity effort from Beal, who won the NBA’s Community Assist award for the 2018-19 season. But this one was directly involved with the game of basketball, the game that has given him so much and has provided the platform to do things just like this.
That was not lost on Beal as he helped reveal the courts which now feature his logo.
“It means a lot because basketball brings a lot of people together,” he told NBC Sports Washington.
Long before Beal was a multi-time All-Star signing max contracts in the NBA, he was a kid in St. Louis learning the game on outdoor courts. He became a star high school player, then played one season at the University of Florida before the Wizards drafted him third overall in 2012.
He remembers the role basketball played in his life long before it was his job.
“It was an outlet, it was structure, it taught discipline. I feel like basketball will help with a lot of things in life; being coachable, being knowledgeable, working as a team. It taught you a lot of things that you need on the daily. And on top of that, the most important thing, it’s fun,” he said.
“There’s nothing like being out here on the blacktop, playing with your friends and peers, parents supporting you and bringing you to the park and taking you to the gym, whatever it is. Just developing the love for that round ball. There’s nothing like basketball.”
Beal had his family there with him; his two sons, Deuce and Braylon, and his wife Kamiah, who is pregnant with their third child. He addressed the crowd with a microphone and highlighted Hoop For All’s community initiatives, including providing health resources like free testing in underserved neighborhoods
As part of the ceremony, Hoop For All provided scholarships to HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) for several D.C. graduating seniors. Kids aged 6-14 then participated in drills on the court run by Jr. Wizards counselors.
But that was after Beal took the ceremonial ‘first shot.’ Beal sank a three as the crowd cheered.
Beal said he didn’t start his on-court offseason training until the day before after months off recovering from left wrist surgery. He is now healed and looking forward to his 11th NBA season. Where he will play remains a question, as in just two weeks he can opt out of the final year of his contract with the Wizards and either re-sign to a new deal or test free agency.
When addressing a group of reporters, Beal was asked how the courts at Banneker Recreation Center could shape his impact on D.C. even if he leaves to join another team. He said he doesn’t “intertwine the two.”
“I was trying to figure out something I could do in the city that left a lasting impact. That’s what I’m big on; legacy,” he said.