When Patrick Beverley finally came home, it wasn’t to the Chicago he used to know.
This is a natural progression for any NBA athlete. Hometowns become a stop in the offseason calendar, stuck as a childhood memory as the city evolves without the athletes it raised.
Now that he’s back, Beverley finds Chicago familiar and foreign all at once. He lives on a different side of the city than he grew up on, commutes each day to work at the arena where he used to sneak into games as a kid.
But even with the novelty created by spending a decade away from home, Chicago is still the place that defined Beverley, a place he never really left.
“I feel it every time I come into practice. I feel it every time I leave practice,” Beverley, 34, said. “I feel it every time I come into a game the same as when I leave the game. Wherever I’m going, I’m going home. I just can’t believe I’m in Chicago. It almost feels too good to be true.”
It is something Beverley always wanted. He’s not afraid to talk about that — loudly, with conviction. He pushed for a move to the Bulls during his free agency in 2021 and spoke with Zach LaVine about potentially pairing up for several seasons before that.
Beverley has been introduced as “from Chicago” for the entirety of his NBA career. It was a reminder — of his history, of the legacy he needed to uphold — but Beverley didn’t need the introduction to let people know where he came from.
“Chicago has a unique style of basketball,” Chicago native and Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers said. “Patrick really shows that every time he walks out on the floor.”
Still, there’s a pressure that comes with returning to your roots.
Before he signed with the Bulls in February, Beverley’s last decade in Chicago consisted mostly of a handful of weeks each summer, soaking up as much time with his children and cramming in as many dinners at the Tavern on Rush (which he still mourns after its closing in January) as possible before catching the next flight to the next destination.
Friends and family watched him grow on televised NBA games more than they did in person. Now, Beverley’s past is getting reacquainted with his present.
“Basketball is basketball,” Beverley said. “The biggest thing for me has been friends and family and tickets and all that. Obviously everyone is happy I’m here. Sometimes they don’t know how to show it. Everyone’s happy, but it’s just — everyone wants a piece of Pat. It’s all coming from a place of love, but these are people that haven’t been around me since I’ve been in Chicago. You’re talking about a decade.”
Beverley knows he isn’t the same person he was when he first left to play in Ukraine — 20 years old, unsure of his path to the NBA, hungry to prove anyone who questioned him wrong. His family has grown, his priorities have changed. The friends and family whom he left for the past decade are eager to share the life — birthdays, game days, holidays — that he missed for decades.
Tickets can be ordered and jerseys can be corralled, but time is a much more precious commodity. And the version of Beverley that has come home — older and, he hopes, wiser — values that time more than ever.
“I’ve always taken my work and my craft very seriously, but I’m psychotic now,” Beverley said. “I’m not going to be able to go out to a pizza spot on a weeknight. That’s not the vibe right now. The vibe is work.”
On a Friday afternoon in March, that work continued in a humid gym at the University of Houston.
The rest of the Bulls were filtering toward the door, tugging off sneakers and swaddling their limbs with packs of ice as they prepared for a rare afternoon of rest before a game against the Rockets the following night.
But Beverley was still on the court, wrapping himself into a smothering defensive stance around fellow Chicago native Ayo Dosunmu. Beverley stuck out an arm, pointing out a spot on the court while simultaneously blocking Dosunmu’s path. Dosunmu dangled the ball down by his knees, dropping his chin to hew his shoulder into Beverley’s chest as they pantomimed the one-on-one contest.
There was no smiling, no trash to be talked. Beverley and Dosunmu would save that for later. There were 10 minutes left until the bus back to the hotel arrived, just enough to squeeze in one more drill, one more lesson. All this time afforded was a furrowed focus as Beverley and Dosunmu talked and dribbled and talked some more.
As they worked, Beverley repeated a reminder to Dosunmu that served to inspire and challenge: “You’re the future.”
Dosunmu landed on Beverley’s radar long before he reached the NBA. But Beverley swears he could have recognized their hometown fraternity by their first meeting in December 2021. It came down to the intangibles — a bump on the hip, a tap to the shoulder, a keen awareness of their relationship on the court at all times.
“You could tell that Chicago runs in his blood,” Beverley said. “He wasn’t afraid of the challenge.”
Dosunmu understands it — the style already was defined for them long before they picked up a basketball.
“It’s tough. It’s aggressive,” Dosunmu said. “You don’t back down. You take it personal.”
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Beverley pulled Dosunmu aside after his first day in the Bulls facility, and post-practice sessions quickly became a routine for the pair.
“Whether I’m here with him for the next four months or the next four years, my job is to make sure he becomes the most complete player on both sides that he can possibly be,” Beverley said.
When he stopped in to catch a high school game between North Lawndale and Collins in March, Beverley saw another glimpse of the past and future.
The rules of Chicago high school basketball have changed — a bit confusingly so, Beverley noted — since his days playing for Marshall. But still, it could have been him or Dosunmu on the court of that gym.
Beverley doesn’t know how long this will last. He hopes to stay in Chicago next season, hopes to carve out his legacy on the hardwood at the United Center.
At this point in his career, he doesn’t take for granted his place in Chicago basketball history. And if he can be part of its future?
Beverley summed it up simply: “That’s all you can hope for.”