“We all have a platform. Please, please let’s give back to the youth. They need us; they’re the future. It’s way bigger than basketball.”
These words were spoken by St. Louisan Bradley Beal at the NBA Awards Show, moments after he was announced as the winner of the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for 2019.
I’ve been watching this young man play a brilliant game of basketball ever since he was in eighth grade and have chronicled his tremendous career from Chaminade College Prep to the University of Florida to his current all-star status as a guard for the Washington Wizards.
Not only has Bradley become a professional basketball star with the Wizards (my favorite team since 1969), but he has become a superstar off the court and in the community. Well, let’s make that two communities. That would be his current home in Washington, D.C. and, of course, his hometown of St. Louis.
Beal earned his Community Assist Award for his charitable work in partnering with the Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, an all-boys public high school in Washington, D.C. He has donated his money, his time and his mentorship to the young men of this school with a myriad of activities. He has done some amazing things for those kids and has developed relationships with them as well, so it was great to see him get recognized for it in such a big way. Beal has become the self-described “Big Brother” to many of those youngsters who are looking for such inspiration from such a relationship from someone such as Beal.
As a lifelong of the Bullets/Wizards, it was personally gratifying to see Beal receive this award. He follows current teammate John Wall, who won the award in 2016 and my uncle Wes Unseld, who was a star for the Bullets in the 1970’s and a giant in the communities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. He received the Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his outstanding community service back in 1975. So, it was wonderful to see Beal continue this tradition.
Back home in St. Louis, Bradley continues to do big things as well. A couple of years ago, he took over sponsorship of the St. Louis Eagles Basketball Club, which is one of the top grassroots boys’ basketball clubs in the country. Beal was a star on the Eagles’ 2010 team that advanced to the championship game of the Nike EYBL Peach Jam, the most prestigious grassroots basketball tournament in the nation. The club was renamed Brad Beal Elite, and it continues to produce quality basketball on a nationwide level.
And just a couple of weeks ago, Beal announced that he will be taking over the sponsorship of the very successful St. Louis Eagles girls’ basketball program and bring it under the Brad Beal Elite umbrella.
Beal made that announcement on June 29 at a Celebration of Life ceremony for the late Rich Gray, who founded the St. Louis Eagles boys’ program in the late 80’s and started the Eagles’ girls program six years ago. Gray, who passed away in the spring, was not only a coach for Beal with the Eagles, but also a strong role model and mentor for the up and coming basketball star.
And the hits just keep on coming for Beal as it was announced last week that he was joining the ownership group for the new Powerplex, a $63 million sports complex in Hazelwood, which is on the site of the old St. Louis Outlet Mall at 5555 St. Louis Mills Boulevard. The mall is being transformed into a complex that will include sports venues, restaurants and space for hotels. It was also be the headquarters for the Brad Beal Elite for games, tournaments and a training facility.
At just 26 years old, Bradley Beal has already accomplished some tremendous things to become an impact player on and off the basketball court. And young people in St. Louis and Washington, D.C. continue to benefit from his work.