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On Monday, Bradley Beal was named the recipient of the 2018-19 seasonlong NBA Cares Community Assist Award. Selected by fans and an NBA executive panel, Beal came away with the prestigious award. John Wall, who won the award back in 2015-16, presented the honor to Beal in one of the coolest moments of the night at The Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, CA.
Beal’s partnership with a local Washington D.C. high school, Ron Brown College Preparatory High School (RBHS), was the main focus of his community work. RBHS is an all-male public school, similar to the all-boys Chaminade College Preparatory School in St. Louis, where Beal went to middle school and high school. Beal’s family instilled education in him when he was growing up. Chaminade is a private school, but the school’s concepts of excellence and developing young men made Beal and RBHS a match.
At the time of Ron Brown College Preparatory High School's founding in 2016, young men of color were only graduating at a 48% clip in the school’s area. Enrollment is listed at a bit over 200 in its third year of existence. RBHS was created to make sure there was a resource in the city that really promoted excellence in the class room, particularly for young men of color in Washington.
It all started in September, when Beal served as principal for the day, participating in a variety of school activities as the students began the new school year. In November, the two-time All-Star held a private advance screening of CREED II for local community groups and students from RBHS.
In preparation for the holiday season in December, Beal surprised the RBHS basketball teams after a practice and presented each player and coach with two pairs of shoes. The reaction from the 34 students and coaches were as priceless as one could imagine.
On February 25th, Beal took 10 students from RBHS on a private tour of the National African-American History and Culture Museum, one of the signature events of his partnership. He challenged the students to embrace their culture and reflect on their intimate experience at the museum.
“I’ve seen his generosity before, I’ve seen him interact with the students before,” Principal Williams explained. “But when he brought us out to the National Museum of African-American History, his level of affect and connection with that whole process, he was able to sit with them and process what they were experiencing.”
On May 5th, Beal hosted a mentoring discussion with the students, followed by an end of school year bowling party. With the voting period wrapping up that weekend, the kids were able to also celebrate Beal’s nomination for this award with him.
Along with the relationship with RBHS, Beal has donated game tickets to various community groups and provided toys to the Salvation Army to help spread cheer to local youth during the holiday season.
Joining Beal in southern California at the NBA Awards were four representatives from RBHS. Along with Principal Benjamin Williams and assistant basketball coach Gary Payne, Beal has provided the two RBHS students with an experience this week they will never forget.
Beal and student Taj Davis have bonded since day one. Bringing him along was an easy decision. Beal calls Davis his “right-hand man” at the school. Makhi Alston Daye was also picked by Beal and the school. Beal has been impressed with Makhi’s work ethic and his willingness to learn and ask questions.
“I try to explain to everybody that being around the school and being around the kids, that has a big impact on me even more than me impacting them,” Beal explained. “It changes my whole perspective on life, on how I treat people, how I interact. Now I have a son too, and they’re my little brothers. I look at them and they’re situations and how they live and the backgrounds that they come from are very similar to mine. I relate to them in a lot of ways, and I’m very appreciative of that.”
“It’s not just those two [Taj and Makhi], it’s the whole student body. I gravitate toward them; I went to the same type of school. I know that school’s hard, I know that class work is hard; I know that it’s not easy. I know it’s a totally different environment; it’s an all-boys school. All of their mental challenge I understand.”
Both Taj and Makhi have been out and about in Los Angeles the past few days, and have been treated like VIPs since they were picked up by a car service at the high school early Sunday morning. Beal provided them with his first class tickets to Los Angeles, an incredible gesture to the two incoming sophomores. Taj had never even flown on a plane, and his first experience was in first class.
When the two students, Principal Williams, and Coach Payne arrived in Los Angeles, there was a driver with a sign waiting for them to be picked up. They were then driven to the Ritz Carlton, as Beal arranged for them to stay at the five-star hotel in his place.
Shortly after arriving in L.A. on Sunday, the group went to the Los Angeles Dodgers game against the Colorado Rockies, sitting in the field level and taking in a game at one of baseball’s most famous stadiums.
Later that night, the students and faculty members went to dinner with Beal in Marina del Rey, where they were able to spend some time away from the spotlight and talk about everything. Much of their thoughts came from sitting down at that dinner and reflecting, but overall the dinner was a fun activity and an intimate atmosphere for the students.
On Monday, the students were picked up by Beal at the hotel and rode with him to the NBA Awards. They walked the red carpet with him, something they did not know about, and truly got a VIP experience. The students and Principal Williams joined Beal and Wall at their table at the Awards show, and saw Beal win one of the highest honors in community work in the league.
Considering how this started as Beal just coming in for a day in September, it’s incredible to see how far the partnership has come and culminated. This award is not just for Beal, and he’ll be the first one to tell you that. It’s about the relationship he’s built with these students and their school.
“Like I told the two kids before, I could really care less about the award,” Beal said. “I just wanted the relationship, that’s all I wanted. In all honesty, it’s amazing to see where it took us. To be nominated for it, and to win it, that’s huge. Compared to all of the different kind of people, especially in my world, who do stuff for people, it’s amazing. Like LeBron, he built a whole school. To me, that’s incomparable. But for me, to be recognized for what we do and the relationship we have, that’s more meaningful than the award.”
“I’ve worked with other athletes at the top of their professions and they come to give back, and it’s not genuine,” Williams said of the school’s partnership with Beal. “They want it scripted out, they want me to tell them what they need to do and how they need to do it. He is genuine; the only reason that I still stay connected with him and allow him to stay connected with the kids is that he’s one of very few people that I’ve ever had that’s real genuine about this work.”
There’s no telling all of the great things this award will do for Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, but Principal Williams now knows what the standard is for this type of work. With countless hours of assistance and guidance from the Wizards’ community relations staff – namely Sashia Jones and Kristen Miles, who also joined Beal in Los Angeles – the experience has been genuine and the epitome of what community work should look like.
“He doesn’t believe in his stardom; he treats us like he’s a peer,” Williams said. “We’re all trying to do the same work to make sure we pay it forward to the young ones. What he has done for us has forced me to re-evaluate how I evaluate partnerships because I’ve always talked about from day one that it needs to be something that’s genuine and that has longevity. He’s given us that blueprint of what that’s supposed to look like. That’s the standard, he didn’t have to do this. It’s beyond anything that anyone’s brought to the school.”
“That man’s here because he wants to be here, he built a relationship because he wanted to,” Payne said. “It’s amazing to see; I thought it would be impossible for them to not be star struck, it’s been amazing, man. I tell people all the time, it’s been amazing. The whole relationship built and the whole journey, it’s been dope.”