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Bembry reflects on Nipsey Hussle, shares summer plans for gun violence awareness

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DeAndre’ Bembry enjoyed his coming out party on the court in his third NBA season. This offseason, he said that he plans to improve his game as well as continue his late brother’s mission of spreading awareness on gun violence in communities.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA — The 2018-19 season was the most productive of DeAndre’ Bembry’s young career.

After battling injuries for his first two years in the league, Bembry played all 82 games this past season. With his fair share of highlight-worthy dunks and arguably the team leader in energy on both sides of the floor, he averaged a career-high in minutes, rebounds, assists, steals and points in the 2018-19 campaign.

“It’s great,” 2016 draft classmate and Atlanta Hawks forward Taurean Prince said of Bembry’s feat. “That guy’s been through a lot, minus basketball. To see him get through his triumphs, life situations — he has a beautiful mother, great friends around him, so to see him get through a full season and actually be happy walking around here with no brace on his arm, I know he went through a couple of injuries our rookie year and last season too, so it’s great. That’s my brother right there.”

A couple of weeks before the NBA Draft, Bembry’s younger brother Adrian Potts was shot and killed while trying to break up a fight outside of an apartment building in Bembry’s hometown of Charlotte.

Potts was 20 years young.

It has been reported that Bembry and Potts were described as “best friends” in a 2015 feature about the then-Saint Joseph’s men’s basketball star. Potts’ death was the second family death that Bembry experienced within a three-year span due to guns. One of his cousins’ brothers was shot at his mother’s house.

“The four of us, including our cousins, were always together when we were younger,” Bembry said to the NBPA’s Jared Zwerling.

Since the tragic death, Bembry has been adamant about raising awareness of gun violence away from the court. Last summer, Bembry and A.P. World, the organization founded to honor Potts, hosted a “BBQ, Basketball and Backpacks” event at Cleopas Johnson Park in Atlanta.

Over the All-Star break in Charlotte, Bembry visited his elementary school and threw a pep rally for the students where he hosted a giveaway to the students, faculty and staff.

Bembry said he plans to continue his awareness efforts this summer.

“Nothing new. I’ve been doing a bunch of stuff in the community and with gun violence [awareness],” Bembry said. “That’s really a normal thing for me, my family and agents. The same thing [this offseason], I’m going to do a few events back home in Charlotte, try to give back to Philadelphia with the new [St. Joe’s] head coach [Billy Lange] that we have. That’s a normal basis for me.”

Like many other 24-year-olds who live in Atlanta, Bembry is a fan of hip-hop. After the Hawks’ overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, Bembry shouted: “Charlotte!” in the locker room when Justin Anderson said that he was listening to “Suge” by DaBaby a lot at the time. While Bembry said he admired how the rapper represented his hometown, he mostly listened to a lot of west coast artists.

Later that night, one of the west coast’s biggest rappers Nipsey Hussle had been pronounced dead at the age of 33, another victim of gun violence. Surveillance cameras show that the artist was outside one of his stores talking to a group of people in Crenshaw, California when an individual ran up and shot into the crowd. The crowd, including Nipsey Hussle, attempted to run away when the shots were fired, but three others sustained injuries on the scene in addition to the rapper’s death. In a recount of the moment to the L.A. Times, Nipsey’s brother Samiel Asghedom said that the employees the business owner was talking to at the time of the shooting didn’t have guns of their own because Hussle hired mostly convicted felons who had difficult experiences finding work elsewhere.

“That was crazy, to be honest,” Bembry said. “I never really listened to him before his last album [“Victory Lap”], but his last album is by far one of my favorite albums ever. I only have a couple of albums where I can listen through the whole album and just listen to it all day.

“It was pretty sad to hear. He meant so much to a lot of people, but his time was definitely well-respected. I didn’t really know him, but I appreciate what he has done.”

This past year has been a turning point for Bembry on and off-the-court, and now he looks to continue pushing the momentum in the right direction.

“It feels great, man. I got my first fully healthy season,” Bembry said at exit interviews. “I feel great, I feel like I can play a whole ‘nother season. I’m just happy to show what I can do, and show where I can improve as well. I feel like the ceiling is super high for me. I can show and get better in so many areas, but it feels great to get in a full 82 games in. It feels great to say.”