Welcome to the Family, Bradley
The two-time NBA All-Star talks about his deep connection to Jordan Brand, giving back to his community and the upcoming season.
Photography: The Washington Wizards
Athletic excellence runs deep in the Beal household. Both of Bradley Beal’s parents attended Kentucky State, where his mother played basketball and his father played football. All five Beal sons followed in their parents’ footsteps to become collegiate student athletes, yet Bradley was the only one to choose hoops over the gridiron. The decision to continue his mother’s basketball legacy paid off. Today, Bradley is a two-time All-Star and is also widely regarded as one of the best guards in the league.
Along with sports and work ethic, the Beal parents passed on a passion for style and sneakers. From a young age, all the Beal boys ever wanted to wear were Nikes and Air Jordans, and Bradley even has a photo of him wearing Air Jordan XI “Concords” as a baby.
For his junior and senior seasons in high school, Beal laced up Jordans on his way to becoming the top player in Missouri and the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2011. At the University of Florida, Beal continued to wear the #23, which he wore during high school. However, his first-team All-SEC performance ensured that he wouldn’t have a junior, senior or even sophomore college season. After being drafted third overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, Beal showed up to his rookie photo shoot wearing a pair of the Air Jordan VIs to match his new uniform.
The Jumpman has been a part of Beal’s life since before he could even dribble a basketball. Studying film of MJ and Jordan Brand greats like Ray Allen were part of his preparation. From prep star to lottery pick, Beal has always been fueled by the symbolism of the Jumpman. Now, he’ll represent Jordan Brand each time he steps on the court.
We caught up with Bradley to talk about his love for Jordans, his passion for giving back to the community and his mindset ahead of this season. Welcome to the family, Bradley.
How did it feel when you were asked to become a member of the Jordan Brand family?
Oh man, I felt nothing but excitement and positivity. It’s a blessing and an honor to be a part of this family. It’s very exclusive. They take care of their athletes very well, and they do a great job of telling their stories. It’s a responsibility to represent the brand. I’m looking forward to this opportunity and being part of the family.
You’ve been working out in the latest Jordan performance models, including the new Air Jordan XXXV and React Elevation. How do they feel on-court?
The AJ35s are great. They’re even better than I expected. I’m usually a low-top guy, but the mids feel just as comfortable. I’m a huge fan of the Jordan React Elevation, too. Both shoes are very lightweight and flexible, which I love. On the court, I need to be very nimble. Those shoes provide the stability and flexibility for me to perform to the best of my ability.
Bradley in the Jordan React Elevation
There’s a certain swagger that comes with being a Jordan Brand athlete. How do you describe that?
When you see the Jumpman logo, you know what it represents. There are only a select few who get selected by MJ, and that speaks volumes. The brand represents a super confident, killer mentality. That’s what it is.
The brand has represented greatness in different sports for decades. Who are some of your favorite Jordan Brand athletes?
Ray Allen, 100%. He had all the different colorways and even rocked retros. As a fan of his game, I’d see his feet, and he was in Jordans throughout his entire career. To this day, he rocks Jordans. I’m also a huge football fan, and I come from a football family. All of my brothers played football. So it’s very dope to see the brand expand to the football side with the NFL and more colleges, including my college, the University of Florida. I’m just happy to be a part of a family that represents one big lineage. It’s amazing that it worked out this way.
Speaking of family, you have a close bond with fellow Jordan Brand athlete, Jayson Tatum. How would you describe your friendship?
It goes back so far. Our bond is way deeper than the game of basketball. He’s a little brother to me, and we’re constantly learning from each other. To see the superstar path he’s on, and knowing that we’re both part of this brand, is incredible. He got our high school sponsored by Jordan Brand. It’s awesome to see all the pieces come together.
What do you think about the Washington Wizards now having the most Jordan Brand athletes of any team?
We were talking about it at training camp. It was Russ’ [Westbrook] first day, and we looked around the locker room like, “We got four Jordan guys.” Russ was like, “Dang, that might be the most in the league.” That’s pretty dope. I know Russ is a fashion wiz, and he probably has every pair of Js imaginable. Same thing with Rui [Hachimura] and Mo [Wagner], so I got some catching up to do. But I got some heat in my arsenal, too.
You’re no stranger to Air Jordans, whether it’s your tunnel ‘fits or even photos with your family. When did your love for Jordans start?
There’s a baby photo in my grandma’s house that shows me in a pair of Concord XIs. I’ve been wearing Jordans since then. We’ve always worn Jordan and Nike. We never wanted anything else. That’s just how it was. My mom has a Nike tattoo on her calf. I played in the Jordan Brand Classic in high school, and now my high school is sponsored by Jordan Brand. I actually played in Jordans during my junior and senior years in high school. I played in the XIIs my junior year, and then in my senior year, I bought a pair of team Js. They were one of the lightest and most comfortable shoes I’ve ever played in. I averaged 35 points a game, so it had to be the shoes.
Bradley in the Air Jordan XI Jubilee that releases December 12
What is your most memorable pair of Jordans?
I never had a chance to buy the Space Jam XIs, and Joel Cornette from my agency, who has since passed away, gifted me a pair before the last retro released. That pair is very special to me, because he’s no longer with us.
What is your favorite MJ moment?
My favorite shot is this pull back, boom, splash, hold the follow through over Utah. After watching The Last Dance, I’m a fan of just seeing how humorous he was — his drive for the game and how he interacted in practice. The practice scene with Scott Burrell is probably the funniest clip I’ve ever watched. The whole docuseries was genius, and I commend him, because he didn’t have to give us that. I’m just a huge fan of MJ and what he stands for.
Which parts of MJ’s game inspire you the most?
His mentality. He knows he’s the best player whenever he’s on the floor. He has the ability to flip a switch and put the team on his back. Also, his determination and desire to always get better. I’ve studied his footwork, and he has some of the best footwork ever. I try to mimic that. It’s remarkable to see the legacy he left on the game, and that it’s still being used today.
How are you feeling right now, and what are your goals for this upcoming season?
I’m excited. We got Russ, and we added and re-signed some great players. The biggest challenge is that the East has gotten better, so we have to be ready to go from day one. It’s up to Russ and I to lead the team, and I’m excited about that. We have to make the playoffs and give ourselves a chance to make a run. That’s our ultimate goal.
Jordan Brand has committed to a mission of “action over words” when it comes to supporting the Black community. Last year, you won the NBA’s Community Assist Award. Why is giving back so important to you?
It’s important, because we are all one community. Some of our family and friends are still in hard situations. I always say yes to giving back, because as a professional athlete, whether you like it or not, you’re looked up to. You’re in a position of power, and your voice matters. Over the years, I’ve realized the platform we have and started embracing it, because at the end of the day, we’re human beings, too. If I have an opportunity to make sure other voices are heard, I’m gonna do it.