The happiest day in Malcolm Delaney’s life turned into the worst night

A night of celebration ended in gunfire.

Malcolm Delaney’s world turned upside down on what had been the greatest day of his young life last summer. Hours earlier, he signed a contract with the Atlanta Hawks, ending five years of toil overseas and reaching his NBA aspiration. And then suddenly, he was cradling the body of his older brother Vincent after he was struck five times in a drive-by shooting.

“It was the worst night of my life,” said Malcolm, a rookie about to start his first NBA training camp this week.

Malcolm, 27, signed a contract with the Hawks on July 15 in Los Angeles and returned home to Baltimore the next day to celebrate with family and friends. He rented a Sprinter van and driver for a night out in Washington, D.C. He purposely stayed away from his home city due to recent civil unrest.

According to Delaney, this is how the night devolved as he relayed it to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

When leaving a Prince George’s County night club, a friend “Euro-stepped” — a cross-over basketball move — around another man and words were exchanged. There was no physical altercation, just words, Malcolm said. His party departed, most thinking nothing more of the incident.

Shortly after on a nearby highway, a car pulled up alongside the van and opened fire. Of the 13 people inside — 12 passengers and a driver — only one was struck by a bullet. Seated in the middle seat, Vincent Delaney, 31, was struck twice in the back, twice in the shoulder and once in a finger that would require amputation., while sitting in the middle seat of the van. Vincent’s wife was grazed in the back, remarkably the only other person hit despite three others, including Malcolm, sitting alongside the large window.

With a hospital just three miles away, the van made it only as far a gas station with the tires shot out. After waiting 20 minutes for an ambulance that failed to arrive, Vincent was loaded into the pickup truck of a gas station patron and driven to the hospital. Malcolm said he performed CPR on his brother during the ride after he briefly stopped breathing.

Though critically injured,Vincent underwent surgery and survived. In the two months since the incident, he has been slowly recovering in a rehabilitation facility but still has a long way to go. Bullet fragments remain lodged in his spine and chest. Malcolm reports his brother is no longer on life-support machinery and can eat and drink on his own. His outgoing personality is returning. He doesn’t complain about what happened to him.

“This was our dream together,” Malcolm said. “I signed and he enjoyed it for one day. When he came to, he didn’t even remember that I signed with the Hawks. For me, he didn’t get to enjoy this time and I never really got to enjoy it. People ask me all the time how it feels to be in the NBA. I still don’t feel it. They don’t understand why. That’s the reason why.”

Malcolm said his brother was the only one who wasn’t sure the nightclub incident was over.

“It was like he sensed something,” Malcolm said. “Because of the argument, he kept saying, ‘If something happened to my brother, I don’t know what I would do.’ He just kept saying it. His wife was like ‘Chill, nothing is going to happen.’ And then …”

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Malcolm called the shooting a “coward act.” Malcolm said he and family members did speak to police sometime after the incident. He does not know if there is an active investigation or if any progress has been made on the case. He declined to give details about his conversation with police. He said his only concern now is for the continued recovery of Vincent. The AJC was unable to obtain an incident report. The Hawks had security personnel investigate the incident.

Malcolm and Vincent are the only children of Patricia and Vincent Sr. Delaney, who celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary this summer and then renewed their vows with their son hospitalized. Malcolm said his brother’s life centered on supporting his wife and 5-year-old son.

Malcolm played collegiately at Virginia Tech under coach Seth Greenberg, now an analyst for ESPN. He has spoken with Malcolm several times since the incident.

“Everything he is doing, he is doing for his family,” Greenberg said. “His brother is, as he would say, his guy. ‘That’s my guy.’ They are really a close family. They are a throw-back family. They really are. They are all in everything together. His mom is wonderful. His dad has been helping kids in Baltimore forever.

“And he and his brother are connected at the hip. It was really hard, especially early on. This should have been the happiest time of his life and this is what he’s been working toward and some of the joy was taken out. But I think that adds to the motivation.”

Malcolm said the darkest moment came at the hospital when his parents brought in his young nephew. The boy was the strongest in the room, Malcolm said, and patted everyone on the back in comfort. Malcolm snuck into the recovery room following surgery for first-hand knowledge that his brother was alive.

This was not the only gun violence incident a member of the Hawks faced this summer. Fellow rookie DeAndre Bembry lost his brother to a shooting weeks before he was selected in the NBA draft. They recently shared their experiences at the league’s rookie symposium. Malcolm said he told his story so his new teammate would know he wasn’t alone.

Malcolm posted some details of the tragedy on social media, something he believes to be cathartic as he recovers from the trauma.

On the night of the incident, Malcolm posted on Twitter at 12:39 a.m. “Snap too funny right now” with several laugh-until-you-cry emoticons. His next post came at 5:25 a.m. when he simply wrote, “Worst night of my life.” At 5:05 p.m. that afternoon he posted, “Went from the happiest day of my life to the absolute worst in 2 days. My guy strong though. He going to pull through.”

There have been periodic updates as Malcolm tweeted when Vincent first opened his eyes, moved his arm, was taken off a breathing machine, saw the sky for the first time and, recently, realized his ring finger was gone and joked he wanted an “icy” pinkie ring for the hand.

Malcolm says he tries not to think about the events of that night. With Vincent on the road to recovery, the brothers await the day they reunite in Atlanta, when Vincent can watch Malcolm play and again celebrate the career achievement.

“It’s just not fun because I know he can’t enjoy the things I’m enjoying,” Malcolm said. “Until he can share the experience with me, I won’t really be happy. I’m going to work hard for him.”

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