All you needed to do to see that Bradley Beal was motivated by being an All-Star snub last season was look at his numbers. After the rosters were announced he went on a scoring rampage, averaging 34.9 points per game to close the season, highlighted by back-to-back 50-point games.
Beal says he took that slight into the offseason and used it to push him to get even better. Now, he has returned as the NBA's leading scorer, and on Thursday he was named an All-Star starter for the first time in his career.
Being left off the 2020 All-Star team was disappointing and frustrating for Beal. But he was able to turn it into a positive.
"It humbled me even more. It brought me back down to Earth. I kind of thought I was hot s--- in a way. It was like ‘okay, you’re not,’" Beal said. "It just forced me to get back in the gym and just shifted my mindset of having a ‘Mamba Mentality’ coming into this year. I just tried to make sure that each and every night I give it to my teammates. I just leave it out there for them and be a prime example for them."
Beal's 'Mamba Mentality' reference is of course a nod to the late Kobe Bryant, who carved out one of the greatest careers in NBA history with a reputation for relentless hard work. Beal clearly works very hard, as evidenced by his consistent year-to-year improvement and his well-rounded game. You don't gain the versatility he has as a scorer by chance.
But there was another gear Beal was able to tap into. There was also a change in his approach to games once this season began.
"I don’t play to gain people’s approval and I think that’s what changed from last year to this year. Last year, I was trying to prove to people I was an All-Star. That kind of backfired on me. This year, I’m just trying to prove I’m the best player on the floor," Beal said.
Beal, 27, has done a good job of that. He's averaging 32.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game all while shooting 47.3 percent from the field.
Those numbers helped him drastically improve his standing in All-Star fan voting. He was ninth in voting last year, but this time led all Eastern Conference guards and also won the media and player vote categories.
Being an All-Star snub a year ago made Beal get better and he is now being rewarded for his efforts.
"It’s just crazy to see the attention, to see the fans defending me the way they are. It’s like where was that love last year? It’s appreciated," he said.