Challenging Past Helps Clippers Point Guard Patrick Beverley Adapt to Every Situation
LOS ANGELES -- Patrick Beverley’s gaze is fixed straight ahead. He’s locked in.
Not on pestering Russell Westbrook or Stephen Curry. Not on offering advice to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson or any of his younger Los Angeles Clippers teammates. And definitely not on joking around in the locker room.
Instead, Pat’s eyes are focused on one of his biggest fans. His name is David. He’s a 19-year-old student and basketball player at Santa Monica College. For the next six months, David will be here, inside his room in the Maxine Dunitz Children’s Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, recovering from an illness that’s put his own hoops career on hold.
For the moment, though, David is in the company of his mother, Patricia, and his favorite player, the one he always plays as in NBA 2K.
“It’s crazy even looking at you right now,” he tells Pat.
But Pat isn’t just here to be seen. He sits down with David, fielding questions about everything from getting to a Division I school and handling setbacks mentally to, of course, defense. Though Pat doesn’t come on this Clippers-arranged visit in search of anything for himself, he does gain something from it: perspective.
“This shit is real life here. It's real people. It's people upstairs really fighting for their lives,” Pat tells CloseUp360 before departing from Cedars-Sinai. “We go out there and play basketball. At the end of the day, we go home, in our own bubble. We get angry about a win or a loss.
“You got husbands up there, watching their wives on the sick bed and all that. They have to stay overnight in the hospital and deal with it. So to compare the two, you really can't. It’s on two different spectrums.”
Nor does the kind, gentle Pat, who takes his time with each of the nine patients he meets on this day, seem comparable to the notoriously feisty competitor his teammates and opponents see nightly in the NBA. But both are, to varying degrees, part of who Patrick Beverley is, because of all he’s been through in a life lifted up by basketball.
Pat being one way on the court and completely different out in the community isn’t a matter of split personalities. Instead, it’s the measure of a man who knows how to read the room—even (if not especially) those with as many thousands of seats as you’ll find inside Staples Center.
For Pat, that adaptability is as much the byproduct of his upbringing on the west side of Chicago as it is the bouncing ball that brought him to Fayetteville, Arkansas; Dnipro, Ukraine; Athens, Greece; Saint Petersburg, Russia; Houston, Texas, and now LA.
“I've been through it all,” he says inside the Clippers’ locker room. “I've been in the gutter. Me and my mom lived in motels. I’ve been in hospitals. My grandma had cancer. I’ve seen it and been through it all, so I lived it.”
Pat’s mother, Lisa Beverley, had him when she was 18. His father, Patrick Bracy, was in and out of his life. His mom and grandmother, Celeste Beverley—along with his great aunt and cousins—provided a firm foundation from which he could be his active, energetic self. When he wasn’t pulling pranks at home, he was busy with all the activities Lisa could find to occupy his time and keep him off the streets, including baseball, football and karate.
But basketball captivated Pat’s attention the most. For one, all the other kids on the block played basketball. Having a court across the street from his grandma’s place made it convenient for Pat to hoop, too.
When Lisa moved herself and Pat out to the suburbs of Aurora during his later childhood, hoping to raise her son in a safer environment, he pleaded with her to let him come back to the inner city. He’d get more attention from colleges coaches there, he said, and feel better in a more familiar environment.
Between hours upon hours spent honing his game alone and earning his keep against bigger, stronger, older kids on the playground, Pat built himself into a formidable force on Chicago’s youth basketball scene during the mid-2000s. And despite not playing ball on the AAU circuit, while Derrick Rose was rising through the ranks, Pat became a star at John Marshall Metropolitan High School, where he led the state of Illinois in scoring as a senior with 37.3 points per game.
Rather than stay in that same environment for college, Pat left his comfort zone for the quieter climes of the University of Arkansas. He shined there, too, earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors in 2006-07 and garnering national recognition as a sophomore.
But an academic scandal rendered Pat ineligible for his junior season and landed him back in Chicago. During his three-and-a-half months back home during the summer and fall of 2008, he fathered his daughter, Adlaia; used a loan from his agent to buy drugs he could sell at a profit to help support her; miraculously survived a horrific car accident without so much as a scratch, and watched as a cousin of his died in his arms.
“I've dealt with it all. It's just the norm,” he says. “Me growing up, what I grew up in, the humble environments that I come from, I'm just fortunate that I'm able to be a blessing. I'm blessed to be a blessing to others.”
Basketball helped Pat find his way back out. Rather than return to school, he signed a one-year deal with BC Dnipro, a professional team in Ukraine, and brought his mom with him. He then entered the 2009 draft, becoming the 42nd overall pick of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Miami Heat acquired his rights shortly thereafter, but he opted to return to Europe to spend more time maturing, on and off the court.
Though Pat put up modest numbers for Greek powerhouse Olympiacos Piraeus, he showed enough as a defender—just like his friend, former NBA veteran Will Bynum, suggested—to get a look with the Heat’s Summer League squad in 2010 and an invite to training camp that fall. If not for a roster crunch in Miami, Pat might’ve spent his first NBA seasons competing for championships alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Instead, Pat went back overseas—this time to Russia, where he became the EuroCup Basketball MVP with Spartak Saint Petersburg. In December 2013, the Houston Rockets came calling. But for Pat to answer, he had to buy himself out of his own contract.
The cost? Just over a million dollars. A huge sum for a kid from Chicago, but a modest price compared to all he’s achieved—from establishing himself in the NBA and starting his own clothing brand inspired by his nickname (Mr. 94 Feet) to handing out school supplies back in Chicago and Thanksgiving dinners in L.A.—during the six years since then.
With Pat’s tenacity between the lines, it should come as little surprise to hear him name Kevin Garnett, who spent his senior year of high school in Chicago, as his favorite player. But to Doc Rivers, another son of Chicago who coached KG to a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008, Pat reminds him of another bulldog with a drastically different demeanor outside of the game.
“John Starks is simply one of the nicest human beings you can ever meet, until the game starts,” Doc says in late January. “And then he literally hates you. He'll head-butt you. He'll do whatever it takes to win the game. Then right after the game, he's back to a great guy.”
Doc recalls John, his teammate on the New York Knicks from 1992-1994, driving Pat Riley “nuts” by freelancing from the coach’s defensive schemes and trying to make plays in other ways.
“Pat's the same way, but it's a good nuts,” Doc says. “There are guys like that who are just so darn competitive that they make up for their mistakes, and you like those guys on your team. They're instigators. And you want instigators on your team.”
But Pat isn’t beloved by his teammates just because he’ll get under his opponents’ skin. They also appreciate his energy, positivity and levity in the locker room.
“He's just hilarious,” Shai says. “Always a laugh with Pat, always jokes, always have fun.”
Pat’s competitiveness comes out in other settings—be it in practice or during summer scrimmages, be they at the Clippers’ practice facility or on campus at UCLA—but with an added purpose. He will be there to put his arm around his younger teammates, offering words of wisdom and encouragement.
“Pat's like my big bro,” Jerome says. “[He’s] funny. He's a guy I come to and talk to. Just a great guy.”
And when the entire team could use a pick-me-up, Pat is the one to chime in. Even while recovering from right knee surgery through most of the 2017-18 season, he took it upon himself to light a fire under the Clippers via text.
Bust they ass, he would send before every game.
“I don't say this loosely, but he's one of the guys I have a tremendous amount of respect for,” Tobias Harris says, “somebody that, when this game is done and over, I'll tell people I played with him and the way he approached it.”
Nobody has spent more time in the NBA with Pat than Montrezl Harrell. LA’s fiery big man played his first two pro seasons in Houston with Pat, and was part of the same blockbuster trade for Chris Paul that landed both of them with the Clippers during the summer of 2017.
Over these last nearly four years, Trez has seen every side of Pat—from the on-court competitor to the locker-room jester to the friendly face for sick kids.
“Everybody has a different personality. Everybody has a different type of demeanor about themselves,” Trez says. “But you're always going to get the same type of Pat when it comes to whatever he's doing.”
Patrick Beverley with David, a patient and fan, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. (Cedars-Sinai)
Pat is only scheduled to be at Cedars-Sinai for about an hour. But as the original 4:30 p.m. cut-off time spills past 5, he’s still at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Center, sitting with some patients and taking photos with others. The nurses and staff, who also pose for pictures with him, would clamor to keep him around, but understand he’s got plenty on his plate, with the Golden State Warriors coming to town the next day.
Pat will have other opportunities to spread cheer to those in need, by dint of his spot on the Clippers’ roster and the team’s partnership with Cedars-Sinai. But to him, his platform in the NBA isn’t what pushes him to give back.
“Honestly, if I didn't play basketball, I'd still do this,” he insists. “I like meeting new people. I'm a people person. I like to have fun. I like to joke. I like to learn about new people. It gives you a different insight. It gives you a different perspective of, you know, it's just not about you out here. It's a bigger world and people have real problems.”
Pat has dealt with plenty of problems in his own life, and is long on perspective as a result. But the 30-year-old is still learning for himself, and still yearning to help others.
In fact, less than two weeks after this visit, Pat will be back at Cedars-Sinai, brightening the day of sick kids and cancer patients, before turning his attention to LeBron James and the Lakers the next day.
“My testimony, my motivation [is] for kids to come from the inner cities where I come from,” Pat says, “with the small chance that it's possible that you can make it out also.”
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.