John Wall and Bradley Beal entered the playoffs as the lone Washington Wizards starters without any playoff experience, but the backcourt duo has offset this lack of seasoning with both their on-court play and somewhat grizzled appearance.
About a month ago, a conversation among Wall, Beal and reserve guard Garrett Templeturned into a challenge to see who could grow out their hair and beard longest. It took only two weeks before Temple dropped out after being unable to withstand the itchiness of his fuller beard.
“I just felt like I was looking too bad,” Temple said after Thursday’s practice. “I wanted to cut it down, I got tired of it and it was itching. But John and Brad got it going on.”
Well, sort of. The 20-year-old Beal admittedly has trouble growing out his facial hair, which means his “beard” consists of a very thin bush of strands on his chin and a mustache that’s more peach fuzz than hair. But the hair on his head has grown from his normally clean-cut look.
“You see I can’t really grow facial hair, so I’m losing that category,” Beal said. “Just to do something different, I told John I was going to grow out a fro and his hair was probably more grown out than mine and we just kept it.”
“I feel like if I grow mine out at this point, I can still catch Brad,” Temple said. “John got some Indian in him, so he can grow a little bit. It gets curly up there.”
Though Wall has typically shown a close-cropped cut for most of his career, the All-Star guard alluded to finding motivation from the April 9 loss to Charlotte that temporarily dropped Washington to the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Since then, both the Wizards and Wall’s beard have come on strong, winning six straight games, including two at Chicago to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series entering Friday’s Game 3 at Verizon Center.
“We wanted to make the playoff run and we knew when we lost to Charlotte, it was a tough battle getting in or getting out of what place you’re going to be in,” Wall said. “Temp fell short of the bet, but me and Brad are sticking with it. I was going to grow my beard out regardless, it’s just growing my hair now.”
Of course, this is far from the first time hair has been sacrificed or glorified in the name of playoff success. The Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks teams of the 1990s often shaved their heads in camaraderie entering the playoffs. And of course, the Boston Red Sox gained great attention when Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli grew massive beards during the team’s run the World Series title last season.
But don’t confuse Wall and Beal’s challenge with those other guys.
“No, no, no” a smiling Wall said when asked if this was akin to hockey or baseball beards. “Just the Washington Wizards, man.”