Malcolm Delaney waited all night for his name to be mentioned. It was the 2011 NBA draft and he had just finished his college career at Virginia Tech, where he had four spectacular years. As a sophomore, he had been named to the All-ACC third team, as a junior, he had been first team and since he averaged 20.2 points per game, he was the leading scorer in one of the best conferences in the country. As a senior, he scored 18.7 points per game and was still named to the All-ACC first team and was the conference second-best scorer. Despite this high-quality pedigree, however, no NBA team called his name and that was also the lockout summer, which canceled all the summer NBA activity. Instead of waiting longer, Delaney immediately accepted Chalon’s offer and landed in the French league to start his professional career. Since that day, he has always played as if he had something to prove, with what they call in America “a chip on the shoulder”.
So after winning the French title (and the French cup) in 2012, Delaney won the Ukrainian championship (he was playing for Budivelnik Kiev, and was named to the All-EuroCup first team) in 2013 and the German championship (playing for Bayern, he was also the league’s MVP) in 2014. Three national titles in three years led him to the Lokomotiv Kuban where in 2016 he made the EuroLeague Final Four in a team that also featured Anthony Randolph, Matt Janning, Chris Singleton and Victor Claver. During that season, Delaney was named to the All-EuroLeague first team, after averaging 16.3 points and almost six assists per game. At the Final Four in Berlin, in the prohibitive semifinal against CSKA Moscow, Delaney scored 26 points, went 12-for-12 from the line, and Lokomotiv scared CSKA through the end, after making a miracle in the quarterfinals, when it eliminated FC Barcelona in five games. During the series, he averaged 15.4 points and 4.8 assists per game (he scored in double digits in 20 of his last 21 games).
Five years spent in Europe, as a star, winning a lot of games and trophies, led him to fulfill his dream. The Atlanta Hawks turned Malcolm Delaney into an NBA player. He was coached by Mike Budenholzer, the current Milwaukee Bucks coach, from the family coaching tree of Gregg Popovich, whom he served as an assistant four NBA championship run. In his first year, the Hawks won 43 games, but the following season was one of rebuilding which meant creating playing time for young players and many losses. At the end, he left for China, to Guangdong, and then he returned to the EuroLeague and signed for Barcelona. But much more happened in the middle.
Delaney comes from Baltimore, is the son of Vince Sr (who played basketball at Vorhees College) and Pat. He attended the Towson Catholic High School, the same school attended by Carmelo Anthony (and another former Olimpia player, Sidney Johnson), and grew up with his older brother Vince Jr, a former free safety at the Stonehill College. The two were inseparable as twins and adopted the acronym FOE (Family Over Everything) as a motto that Malcolm chose as a nickname on his social media platforms and both brothers tattooed on their bodies. “I grew up in a tough Baltimore neighborhood, but my parents knew that my brother would be an excellent guide for me and they respected the fact that he was the one who kept me out of trouble,” said Delaney.He went to Virginia Tech, a football school, but a member of a highly competitive conference with great exposure, the ACC. “I had only lived in the city until then, Virginia Tech was a different place that helped me focus on what I needed,” he explained later. He has played 136 games in four years at Tech including 125 starting lineup appearances, playing at both guard positions, as a point-guard or off the ball along Erick Green (who played in the EuroLeague in Siena, Valencia and Fenerbahce).
In 2010, he had thoughts about going to the NBA by declaring himself for the draft, but he didn’t hire an agent and eventually decided to play a fourth season for Coach Seth Greenberg’s Hokies. He hoped to play in the NCAA Tournament finally, but there was no way. He had to settle for the NIT, but not before an amazing win over Duke, the number 1 team in the ranking at the time, with its roster full of future NBA players. That was Delaney’s fourth consecutive game without ever leaving the court. In his last college game, against Wichita State, he was capable to score 30 points in 43 minutes.
The NBA was his dream, so it is understandable that he was on cloud nine in the summer of 2016 he was informed of the Atlanta Hawks two-year proposal, after his great five years in Europe. “Realistically, I knew at the time of the draft that I had to prove it all again,” Delaney said. But with the Atlanta contract in his hands, he returned home to celebrate with friends and of course with the inseparable Vince. And his life took an unexpected turn.On the night of the celebrations, in Washington, on a highway some shots fired casually at the car rented for the evening hit his brother Vince, in five different points. Malcolm had to take him to the hospital after practicing a heart resuscitation, as they had taught him at school. At the hospital, they saved his life, but not the use of his legs. Since then Vince has been in a wheelchair and Malcolm has dedicated his career to him. “I went from the best day to the worst day of my life in 48 hours, but basketball helped me get through the moment,” Malcolm said. The first time Vince watched him play in the NBA, in Washington, he asked him for a personal gift before the game: a dunk. Not a simple thing to do for a point-man with a limited number of minutes available. Still, it happened. With nine minutes to play in the second quarter and Washington on offense, Delaney anticipated a pass from the low post to his man, on the perimeter. With perfect timing, he put his hand on the ball, deflected it, and immediately headed for the opposite side, in total solitude. He really dunked!
But most importantly, during his journey, Malcolm Delaney never forgot where he came from. In the Baltimore area where he grew up, children go to school with coats and hats because there is no heating. Delaney has donated thousands of winter clothes to help kids live the school activity as comfortably as possible, “because we expect them to learn on the desks, but you can’t do it in those conditions, if it’s too cold in the winter or maybe too hot in the summer, when there’s no air conditioning. At the beginning I helped without letting anybody know, I also organized a summer team of the AAU circuit, then they explained to me that by using my name it would have been easier to involve others. Aaron Maybin, a football player who grew up in the same area, also did it. Baltimore is a difficult place and kids need help.”