With the recent trade of Bradley Beal from the Washingtom Wizards, the reactions of fans have been everywhere, from being upset at the changing of the direction of the franchise, to being ecstatic about his exit. No matter where you sit on this spectrum, the one thing we can agree on is Bradley Beal is perhaps one of the polarizing figures in the history of this franchise, and the reasons behind that are up for debate.
Where do we draw the lines on each side of the debate?
To be honest, it all starts with stars before Beal. Whether it was Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Gilbert Arenas, or most recently John Wall, this franchise has had a difficult time breaking away from key figures. But what do we make of the exit with Beal?
If you ask some, it would be his supermax contract that draws ire from members of the fanbase. And that’s where things get complicated. Part of the reason why Beal received the contract he did was in part because of the front office and the owner. The franchise decided not to trade Beal away for years, especially after it became apparent that the Wall-Beal era was coming to a close. Even when the team did not show much progress with Beal as the franchise player, the team continued to double down in the same direction of building around Beal.
Many would also argue that he could have asked out at any point, which is a source of frustration that many fans have with him and his time in DC. He could have simply not sign the 2-year extension he signed in 2019 or the big 5-year super max contract in 2022. By accepting these extensions, he was accepting mediocrity. He was settling, he wasn’t pushing the team to do more.
Then the exit. We all know adding the ‘No Trade’ Clause was perhaps one of the worst decisions in this franchise's history. You could argue it may be considered one of the worst contracts in sports history just with that clause alone. It gave Beal a lot of unnecessary leverage to dictate the terms of not only where he went but also what was involved in the trade. That part was not beneficial to the franchise and that upset many in the fan base. For that reason, there are a lot who will not forget how he left the franchise.
What are the realities?
There is a lot to unpack with Beal. Here are my thoughts. While I certainly understand the passion from both sides of this debate, there are some things that I think are indisputable:
- Beal was undoubtedly one of the best players in this franchise's history. Perhaps that is partly due to the franchise not producing many stars over the past few decades, but it doesn’t change his standing with the team's history.
- He did not live up to the billing of a ‘franchise player’. His only playoff berth with that moniker came as a result of winning a spot in the play-in tournament and lead to the team losing in 5 games in a non-competitive 1st round against the Philadelphia 76ers.
- As we eluded to earlier, the front office had a major role in how this turned out and that also includes the owner, Ted Leonsis. No matter how you feel about his willingness to stay, to get these enormous contracts, Leonsis and front office could have said no. The front office was complicit in how this all played out. The team gave him the responsibility of leading this team when there was very little showing that he could do so.
- Outside of all of the basketball accomplishments, Beal contributed to the DC community in many positive ways including supporting many youth in numerous community endeavors. He was a beloved figure in the community, which makes what happened with the team difficult to accept.
Beal is undoubtedly a complicated figure, but there is plenty of blame to go around. And Beal is not completelyinnocent. I don’t think we will ever get to a point where they will be an overwhelming part of the fan base who will agree with their view of Beal. As we continue to debate his legacy with this franchise, we are onceagain left with a complicated exit of a key figure in franchise history.
So where do you sit on this debate? Will you honor and recognize his contribution to this franchise in the future, or are you completely turned off by his time in D.C. and how it all ended? Let the debate continue.