Malcolm Delaney is coming from Baltimore, but made his dream come true in Atlanta when he finally made it to the NBA. Then the dream was not as expected. He was a winner, he was used to winning in Europe and found a little bit frustrating not being able to do the same in the NBA, especially during his second season. So, he moved on and the path brought him to Milan. Now, nothing else counts. But there’s a story, a story to be told.
-How was to grow up in Baltimore? Which kind of basketball town Baltimore is?
“It’s tough, not a lot of players get to make it out, especially coming from the inner city. It’s tough, there are a lot of good basketball players, but a lot of people got caught in the streets, they don’t have good parenting, or they don’t have families surrounding them, people contributing positively in their lives. For me, I just had role models, people who taught me more than street basketball. Basketball was competitive, all of my friends played, but definitely it is difficult to get out”.
-Carmelo Anthony, the best ever from Baltimore, is a role model for kids coming from there?
“He was my brother’s age, so I was able to see him go from the first steps to where he was, a positive role model for all kids in Baltimore. And he was closer to our age. There were guys before him, like Sam Cassell, who probably some people consider one of the most famous in Baltimore. But we can kind of relate more to Melo because he’s closer in age. I played for his basketball team, Team Melo, so going into high school, when there was the chance to become professional athletes, Melo was definitely the guy we looked up to”.
-You had a stellar career at Virginia Tech, led the team to a historic win over Duke one year.
“It was good, going into Tech we weren’t predicted to do much, but I think every year we got better. Personally, I started to realize how good I could possibly be and started to take basketball a lot more seriously. And with Melo Anthony, in the summer I had the chance to go to Atlanta and work out with him. Some of those things became reality, I’d seen the lifestyle I wanted to live, I’d seen the work that he had to put on and off the court. I met a couple of other people, Dontaye Draper, who that summer went to play with Real Madrid. And after that these were the guys I started to look up to. Melo was an NBA superstar, buy guys like Draper, Jamon Gordon, who played for a long time in the EuroLeague. Those guys were the guys I started to gravitate towards because those where the paths I was most similar to”.
-Being undrafted fueled your motivations for the future?
“Honestly, the draft was big, I’d loved to get drafted, but I really didn’t care. My biggest thing was where my career is going to finish. The guys were drafted, played two years in the league and that was it. Personally, I think I’m in a better position than probably 80 or 90 percent of people who got drafted when I didn’t get drafted. So I look back at my story, I chose another path, and I think I’m very successful at the path I chose. I got the chance to play in the NBA. Everything I wanted to do in basketball pretty much I accomplished”.
-In Europe, you became a proven winner.
“I took the advises coming from guys like Draper. They said if you want to be considered one of the best players in Europe you gotta win, it doesn’t matter to come over and averaged 20 points, put up numbers. If you lose nobody care. I think after my first year in France when we won all three cups and lost the Eurochallenge final, I kind of realized what people meant. I was appreciated for what I was doing on the court because we were winning, not so much for of my stats. Because the winning that we had as a team. After that, every year I tried to win, I tried to play my best, of course individually, but I tried to do my best to help the team and the club I was on to be successful”.
-Did you expect to have a better chance to prove yourself in the NBA?
“I knew going to the NBA older, I knew what to expect. I knew going to Atlanta I expected something to be a little bit different how it ended, but it’s part of the game. I don’t like to make excuses, at this point looking at my career I really don’t care. I met some people in Atlanta, did some positive things for me off the court, and I think overall it was a great experience for me. Was I able to be myself, or was I able to show people what really I could do? No. But for me now I really don’t care”.
-You said that China gave you the confidence you lost.
“After Atlanta, in the second year my team really tried to tank, they didn’t really want to win games, to get younger, to get lottery picks. I’m used to winning, so for me it was kind of depressing playing on a team where you really weren’t expected to win or you really didn’t try to win. As well as for me personally, I think that summer I was in the best shape of my career, I felt the best and still I wasn’t really able to show what I could do after being told that I had the opportunity to do it. After that season, I had surgery on my ankle and I lost confidence in myself after two years where I wasn’t able to do what I could do, it was mentally draining. In China, I knew that offensively I could have the chance to be myself and I had the opportunity to go to a great organization in China”.
-How frustrating it was not to be able to finish the EuroLeague in Barcelona, since you went there to reach that goal?
“It was big, we were tied for second in the EuroLeague, first place in the ACB when the Covid got around. We had a great chance to win the EuroLeague. There was a lot of hard work we put up during the season, a lot of things we had to go on and off the court, and not having the opportunity to finish the season was something that we talked about a lot. But honestly, there are things bigger than basketball for me. Safety and my health. If it’s meant to happen, it’s gonna happen”.
-What’s the biggest motivation coming to Milan?
“Once again, I want to try to be myself. Last year, going to Barcelona a little bit late, I just got the feeling of joining a team that was already put together. This year is different. Talking with the Coach, from Day one, he said he wanted me to be myself, he will build the team around me and let me be me. He trusted me as a winner, he knows my work ethic on and off the court, as a leader. Having this kind of respect from a coach put a lot of pressure on myself in trying to do something special. With the roster we just put together, the commitment that the club is putting into basketball since I have been here is top level, definitely, so far, this has been the most professional place I’ve ever been. And in the long run it will help the team to succeed”.
-You will play for a proven winner and with other proven winners. That affected your decision to come here?
“Yes, I want to play for winners, alongside them. In one of the first conversations, the coach told me that he could possibly get Kyle Hines. I don’t know at the top of my head, but probably Kyle is one of the best Americans who ever played in Europe, in terms of winnings, championships. Playing his role on a team, something like that, mentally I was directed here. I’ve played against Kyle a lot, never really had the chance to beat him, so having him on my side, on my team would be positive for me. Then Chacho, Shavon just came from winning the ACB, we have a lot of players who won championships, and committed to make this a big club in Europe and to contribute. It’s a group of players, of winners, coming together, trying to get bigger goals. The biggest goal right now is the EuroLeague, but the main goal is winning the Italian league. That’s where we start and after that we’ll see what happens”.
-Can you explain the FOE acronym?
“It’s pretty simple. When I was 18 I decided to have the Family Over Everything tattoo. Everybody knows show much the family means to me. Growing up in Baltimore, I had both my parents, my family was really close, my older brother was my best friend, the person I look up to the most. When I first saw it, it just stuck with me and since then I have used it on every social media platform. Now a lot of people are starting to use it, but if you look back it was 2012 or 2013 and I’ve been using it since then. It’s something I stand on”.