DeAndre’ Bembry, the 21st pick by the Hawks, went through a tragic experience just two weeks before the NBA draft. His younger brother, Adrian, was shot and killed outside of an apartment building in Charlotte, trying to break up a fight.
For the first time since the incident, Bembry opened up about the special role and impact Adrian played in his life. This upcoming season, Bembry will be dedicating his Hawks jersey number and planning gun violence prevention events in honor of his brother. His heartfelt conversation with the NBPA is presented below in a first-person perspective and edited for clarity and length.
Every moment was special together.
We were with each other almost everyday, whether it was us outside playing manhunt or us in the house playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or Madden. Or it was being outside in the creek somewhere or in the woods playing football—things we did when we were living in Charlotte. We were with each other most of our life, almost every hour.
It was like the regular big brother, little brother connection—beat him up every time for fun, a love-hate relationship. I remember the first time I went to college. The first week went by and then he started calling me crying because he missed me. And he was like 17, 18 at the time. I’m, like, “What’s the problem, bro?” And he just started crying, like, “I miss you.” There were plenty of moments that stand out, but that’s definitely one of them.
This dude did everything: baseball, football, track. This dude even did cheerleading for like a month or two during his senior year of high school. He was definitely a different guy. I was, like, “Cheerleading, what are you talking about?” He told me, “Yeah, man, you get all the females.” I was, like, “Oh, OK. Smart man, but I don’t know if I could claim running around saying I’m a cheerleader.” We laughed about that.
He helped me prepare for the NBA draft by just being my brother. He just believed in whatever I believed in. He just instilled more confidence in me. We both had confidence in each other.
He was just happy for me because he had been talking about me being in the draft for the past three or four years. Even when I was a senior in high school, we were talking about this moment. So it was definitely tough being at the draft without him.
He’d be there with me most of the time. Most of the experiences that I did have, he was either on the sideline or in the room experiencing it with me. He was actually trying to come to St. Joe’s with me, but he knew I was leaving so he ended up just staying down there. He was just finishing up his sophomore year at North Carolina Central University.
When my name was called at the draft, I tried to make some light out of it. But I was just happy that I got drafted because I was with a bunch of family and friends. We were having a dinner party at a hotel in Summit, N.J. We were just talking about how happy he probably he is right now.
I cried later on at the end of the night. I had a moment by himself.
Each day is pretty much the same. I think about my brother all the time. And I watch videos of us together all the time on my phone, when he was on campus with me. It was just very hard for me and my mother, and for a lot of us. His father lost his first son. It’s been tough, but sticking with each other is definitely helping us get through it.
I don’t even care about the verdict in the case. It’s not going to bring him back no matter what happens.
In Honor of Adrian
It’s crazy how something like that actually ended up happening to him. Gun violence prevention is one of the things my brother actually wanted to do.
What sparked that interest as well is one of our cousins’ brothers got shot about three years ago. Some people just ran up on him and he got shot at his mother’s house, and he died. The four of us, including our cousins, were always together when we were younger.
He wanted to be a lawyer, and he already was speaking on these problems with people that knew him. He also always talked about being the mayor of Charlotte for the past few years, so he was definitely into the politics. His father played a huge role in his life and helped him grow as a man. My brother was very smart and studious.
I know I’m definitely going to do charity events for gun violence prevention. Nowadays, the violence is getting out of hand. There definitely needs to be a change with the rules of having a gun, having a permit. I feel like anybody can get their hands on guns nowadays.
I lived in Charlotte, New Jersey and Philly, and those are all places I feel like definitely need advice with gun violence. I’m probably going to start my first event in Atlanta since I’m there now.
I’m also going to wear No. 95 in honor of my brother.
I first thought about just keeping the same number in college. I know he’d probably want me to do that. Then I started thinking about wearing the No. 20 for his age, but I saw something from a fan on Instagram that had me wearing No. 97. And I just started thinking about No. 95 for the year he was born, December 15, 1995. It was actually on my birthday when I thought about the number.
I told the Hawks the meaning behind it, and they thought it was a great contribution towards my brother.
Also, my mother, Essence, and I are going to get matching tattoos with something meaningful for my brother. My little brother loved tattoos. We’re still going through that process of what it will be, but actually one of my cousins does tattoos. I’m going to have him draw me up something for me and my mother. It’s going to be the same exact tattoo.
My brother not only wanted to do better for himself, but the people around him. He was more about changing the environments and making things being better for his family and others.
It was special to get to know him for 20 years.