Elite NBA players can get caught in the contradiction of fandom: We want them to prioritize winning (especially rings) yet be loyal to a franchise.
Bradley Beal has been in the middle of that for years — he is maybe the most rumored star on the move of the last five years. Through it all, Beal has remained loyal to a Wizards team that did get to the second round a few times with him, but never further (and has made the playoffs just once in the past four seasons). A team that has paid him well but has been questionable with their team building around him. Beal talked about that loyalty with Haute Living.
“People always look at me like I’m crazy, but I have a huge desire to want to make it work here and win here,” the shooting guard admits, noting, “This is the team that drafted me. They’re super loyal, I have a great relationship with ownership, and a great relationship with our front office. Plus, there’s not a lot of chances in the careers of NBA players to be notated as the franchise guy, you know? To be able to have that opportunity, to be able to be in a position to where I can write my own story, that’s everything…
“Loyalty is definitely a huge factor for me. At the end of the day, basketball is a business. You see guys drafted to teams and traded shortly after, and sometimes, loyalty is questioned. I’ve never had that feeling [with the Wizards]. I’ve never had to have that particular cloud lingering over my head at any point in my career here. I love the fact that we’re always up front, that there’s always a straightforward conversation about where we’re going and what we’re doing…
On that front, he says, “I feel like if I win a championship here in DC, the grind of it, with everything I’ve been through, all the adversity and ups and downs, that would make a win that much sweeter, make me appreciate it that much more. And I do love the grind, and to sometimes go against the odds.”
Beal is loyal, but he also made the right business decision to stay, signing a five-year, $251 million contract that starts next season — and includes a no-trade clause.
That contract will quiet trade talk for a little while. Maybe a season. But if the Wizards don’t win this year — which would involve Kristaps Porzingis staying healthy and playing like an All-Star — the rumors will start up again. Those could be because Beal decides it’s time to move on and chase a ring or because the franchise decides now is the time to rebuild. The no-trade clause basically allows Beal to pick his destination if he does get traded — the Wizards can’t just dump him somewhere. There would have to be mutual interest (but because Beal can pick, the team that trades for him can lowball the Wizards with their offer — there would be no competition).
We should applaud Beal’s loyalty — if fans complain about players who force (or try to force) their way out of town as bad for the game, then what Beal is doing is good for it. He has chosen to be the face of the franchise in the nation’s capital. That deserves credit, and maybe his loyalty will be rewarded with victories this season (although most project the Wizards to be fighting for a play-in spot).
It’s good to hear Beal talk about that loyalty. Just know it will not stop the NBA rumor mill.