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In a calendar year full of surprises involving the Washington Wizards, one story in July of 2020 was among the least expected. From ESPN and the late great Vaughn McClure: Bradley Beal was teaming up with baseball legend Alex Rodriguez, pop superstar Jennifer Lopez and others to try to buy the New York Mets of Major League Baseball.
They didn't end up buying the team. Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen got it instead. But it turns out that one ill-fated deal was just part of a business relationship that has formed between Beal and Rodriguez, whom Beal now considers as a mentor and friend.
Rodriguez and Beal communicate regularly via texts, calls and over Zoom. If Rodriguez sees an article he finds interesting on CNBC or the Wall Street Journal, he will text it to Beal for his thoughts.
"I always viewed him as one of my favorite baseball players growing up and was a huge fan of his business goals and everything he's created after baseball," Beal told NBC Sports Washington. "I was definitely interested in just having a mentorship and a business relationship with Alex. He was the same way."
Beal and Rodriguez were introduced by a mutual friend early in the Mets' bidding process. Rodriguez ended up forming a bidding group that included Beal among other current and former athletes like NFL players Brian Urlacher, Travis Kelce, Joe Thomas and DeMarco Murray, as well as Pistons big man Mason Plumlee.
"Right off the bat, you meet him, you meet his wife; you just know this kid is special," Rodriguez told NBC Sports Washington of Beal.
"You know he’s humble, he’s soft-spoken, he’s quick to listen, slow to talk. That’s a rare combination for someone who is so damn talented and so good... [And] he grew up surprisingly – and this shocked me – when he grew up he was a big fan and that he loved baseball, which made me very happy."
Eight months after the Mets were sold, news broke that LeBron James had bought into the Boston Red Sox by way of the Fenway Sports Group which also owns the Premier League soccer club Liverpool. Rodriguez had envisioned turning the Mets into a similar operation with media and entertainment ventures under the same umbrella.
Cohen ended up purchasing the Mets for $2.4 billion, which set a record for a North American sports franchise. After the Rodriguez deal fell through, Beal took to Twitter to express his disappointment.
That, however, is unlikely to be the end of Beal's quest to own a sports team. As he continues to make hundreds of millions of dollars playing in the NBA, he considers owning a team a long-term goal.
"I think so. I'm definitely always exploring and trying to figure out ways to get my foot in that door. Obviously, I know it's not easy," Beal said of potentially buying a sports team (or part of it).
"It's all about having the capital and having the relationships, and knowing what you're doing how to operate a team. Everything that comes with it. It's definitely something that I've tried to educate myself on and something I definitely could see myself being a part of in the future."
And that's where Rodriguez could factor in. He has valuable insight for someone like Beal, who at 27 years old has earned $145.8 million already in his career from his basketball contracts alone with his current deal set to push that number over $200 million in 2023.
Before contracts like the ones Beal has signed became commonplace in sports, Rodriguez broke new ground as a baseball player. He made $455 million in MLB salary, including a record-setting 10-year contract worth $252 million with the Texas Rangers in 2000.
Because of that, Rodriguez feels he has a unique perspective to share. He can also speak from experience when it comes to investing that money, both the good and the bad.
Rodriguez grew up idolizing athletes like Cal Ripken Jr., Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Keith Hernandez. But as he became a professional athlete himself, he began to admire people for a different reason; their business sense.
"Kids today, young athletes, they want to be the next LeBron James, but they also want to be the next Mark Cuban," Rodriguez said. "They want to be entrepreneurs. That spirit, I think, flows through Bradley."
Rodriguez is now mentoring Beal much like others did for him when he was in his 20s and was just getting started in his life as a businessman. Among Rodriguez's mentors include Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, who insured the final seasons of his contract with the Rangers in the early 2000s and remains a confidant.
Rodriguez said he would travel to Omaha, NE to spend time with Buffett every offseason. They would talk for hours in Buffett's office and over dinner about future business deals and the best ways to invest millions.
Rodriguez also became close with Johnson, the Lakers legend, who 20 years ago sat him down in a back room at Mastro's Steakhouse in Beverly Hills, CA to explain his primary business principles.
"It was a dinner that changed my business life," Rodriguez said. "He started going through all the things that he would recommend, lessons learned. I took home five or six pages of notes."
Rodriguez says the philosophy he shares with athletes like Beal is rooted in doing the proper research before entering a deal. He tells his mentees to understand everything about the industry, the company and the management team. It is also important to surround yourself with the right people.
That messaging was seen in a statement Beal put out in November when it was announced he had invested in a video game wagering platform called PLLAY.
"I'm not just investing in a product; I'm investing in people," he said.
Beal, Rodriguez says, is a sponge to it all. His goal of learning more about business and potentially owning a sports team is evident in how serious he takes their conversations.
"What jumped off the page for me was how humble he is and how many questions he asks; his thirst to want to be great as a business person and as an investor. Very rarely do you have a player entering the prime of his career wanting to be a shrewd investor. That was pretty admirable," Rodriguez said.
"I really think he has the opportunity to not only be a great basketball player, but a great businessman, a great family man and a great role model for millions of Americans out there; young kids, kids with brown skin.
"He has an opportunity to do what Magic Johnson did for me."