Bradley Beal has never been shy about his desire to leave the game of basketball better than how he found it. With Bradley Beal Elite, the Washington Wizards star is doing just that.
In a recent postgame feature, NBC Sports Washington, broadcast home of the Wizards, took a deep dive into the history of BBE and the legacy Brad is continuing to build through it.
What is now Bradley Beal Elite was founded as St. Louis Eagles Basketball Club in 1988 by a group that included Ron Golden and legendary coach Rich Gray. Brad joined the Eagles 20 years later, as a young pup who had just began to flash his star potential at St. Louis’ Chaminade Prep.
“Playing for the St. Louis Eagles under Rich Gray was the best decision my parents and I ever made in my life,” Brad recalled. “Coach Gray was the first person to tell me I could be the next Kobe…could be the next pro kid coming out of St. Louis. Outside of my parents, I’d never heard that. This is a guy who is putting plenty of kids in the pros. Plenty of kids in college and helped develop them. I started believing, maybe I can.”
Indeed, four years later, Brad was drafted by the Washington Wizards. A few years into his budding NBA career, Brad began to think about how he could give back to the game. After some discussions with Gray, he took over the Eagles and turned them into Bradley Beal Elite, first taking over the boys high school teams in 2017 and later adding girls and middle school boys teams. But one thing Gray wouldn’t let Brad do is be just a namesake for the program. He wanted to make sure Brad was willing to put in the time.
“That was a promise I made to Coach Gray in 2017. When I decided to take over the team, he was like “This is yours. You can’t just put your name on it.” So to be able to be where I am, have my feet where I am, that legacy portion, that’s what I care about the most,” he said. “Everybody who knows me knows that my entire summer, my schedule is based around my AAU schedule. Even my workouts. Everything I do is based around the AAU schedule Because I love those kids so much, not just my kids but being around the entire circuit of kids.”
Now in its seventh year under Brad’s name, and 36th season overall, BBE is responsible for helping dozens of St. Louis area boys and girls basketball players reach their goals of playing basketball at the collegiate level. Bradley Beal Elite has also been a launching point for several young men to reach the ultimate goal of playing in the NBA. Among them are Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, one of the league’s brightest young stars, and projected 2023 NBA Draft Lottery pick Brandon Miller.
Brad admitted that while he always envisioned giving back to the game, he never thought he’d be doing it in the way he is with BBE.
“I would’ve never thought of anything like this being able to happen. This is probably my happiest accomplishment,” he said. “I didn’t think of myself to be a role model type player for kids. I’m just trying to be the best version of Brad Beal I can possibly be. To hear that [I’m their role model] from my kids, kids I’ve coached…Jayson always says ‘Brad’s my favorite player,’ that trips me out.”
Currently, BBE has a handful of players in the NBA, including Brad, Tatum, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland, Golden State Warriors guard Moses Moody, Toronto Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, and Brad’s teammate in Washington Jordan Goodwin. Those players are thankful for the memories and opportunities Brad and the BBE program have given them.
“Inspiration is the most important for the youth. For them to be inspired by somebody who came from the same neighborhood, the same program, played in the same gyms as we have,” Tatum said. “So I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s done with the program, how much he’s given back from resources to time. Just him being there. I know how much it means to those kids. I’m really proud and happy that he’s doing that.”
Beal's impact on basketball culture in St. Louis is unmatched. Don't believe it?
Just listen to @jaytatum0 and Jordan Goodwin
— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) April 5, 2023
Bradley Beal takes special pride in mentoring the youth players on his AAU team, @BradBealElite 🙌
— NBC Sports Washington (@NBCSWashington) March 27, 2023
A new generation of BBE stars is getting ready to splash into the league as well, led by E.J. Lidell, who was drafted in the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, before a preseason injury knocked him out for the season. The upcoming draft might see a pair of BBE alums go in the first round, with Miller, the Freshman of the Year and Wooden All-American at Alabama, and Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. both declaring for the draft after their successful.
Others who could soon follow include college standouts Caleb Love and Yuri Collins and high schoolers Scotty Middleton and Layden Blocker, who finished up with BBE last summer and are off to Ohio State and Arkansas respectively this fall.
“[Brad] deserves everything that is coming to him and what he has gotten so far. Repping him and repping St. Louis everywhere we go, it’s meant a lot. It holds weight,” Love said. “Every time we stepped on the floor, regardless of win, lose or draw, we had to give it our all.”
Despite consistently graduating stars to the next levels of the game, a foundation has been laid that forecasts a bright future for the program. To that end, the groundwork has been laid for a 97,000 square foot facility in St. Louis that will house all of Bradley Beal Elite’s teams under roof. His contributions through BBE cinch that Bradley Beal will leave the game of basketball better than he found it when he entered the league a decade ago.
“It’s very humbling for me” he said. “It means the world to me, because that’s what I want my legacy to be: “What kind of impact did I leave on you? What kind of impact did I leave on my team? What kind of impact did I leave on my kids?”