As best as Mark Cuban could remember, he’d never been to the greater Norfolk area.
It’s not that the historic area didn’t hold appeal. The Mavericks owner just never had been there.
Until last weekend.
It took a special event and one of the special people Cuban has ever dealt with to get him to Portsmouth, Va., just a stone’s throw from Colonial Williamsburg and Virginia Beach.
And it showed just what kind of difference Cuban and the Mavericks are making in the community.
Not just the Dallas community, but for people in need all over.
Dorian Finney-Smith had his fifth annual basketball camp for kids in his hometown. It was a huge success with so many youth taking part (more than 150) that the camp staff ran out of T-Shirts.
But there was more than just a camp. Finney-Smith also had his first black-tie affair to raise money for Finney Family First Foundation, which drew a lot of luminaries and for which Cuban was the keynote speaker.
“Dorian’s just an awesome guy,” Cuban told WAVY.com, a Hampton Roads-area news outlet. “He’s got a heart of gold and he cares about his community. He’s someone who worked hard. He wasn’t expected to be here. And here he is.
“So when somebody can lift themselves up through their own sheer hard work, you got to respect that. And when you’re a great human being like Doe-Doe is, I’m going to be there. He means so much.”
Finney-Smith’s work in his hometown is not unlike what a lot of NBA players do to help give back to their communities.
With the Mavericks’ alone, Dwight Powell has engineered a strong foundation to help families of cancer patients in Dallas, Reggie Bullock has become a major advocate of LGBTQ rights after two of his sisters were murdered, including one who was a transgender woman and Luka Dončić has rebuilt outdoor basketball courts in his hometown in Slovenia.
These endeavors are in addition to the many camps and appearances that virtually all Mavericks make in the Dallas area throughout the year.
“Sports is unlike any other business,” Cuban said. “You can work for Google, Apple, any great company and people don’t pay attention in the community. But when you’re a professional athlete like Dorian, people want to know that you care and Doe-Doe exemplifies that. He’s just a special guy.”
Finney-Smith’s weekend also included a free community day that featured a cookout and softball tournament. Before heading to his hometown, Finney-Smith last week was part of the Mavericks’ Hoop Camps in Rockwall and Plano.
Going home, he said, was a true joy. He’s determined to make a difference in the Portsmouth area.
“The city of Portsmouth . . . it’s struggling right now with crime,” he said. “So I’m trying to give the youth more (chances) to be successful.”
The community has embraced Finney-Smith, too. As part of the weekend’s festivities, his high school unveiled a tribute to their No. 1 basketball product
The showcase is adjacent to the gym where Finney-Smith led Norcom High School to two state championships.
“It gives me chills,” he told reporters. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears in this place. This is probably the most fun I had playing basketball – don’t worry about anyone getting paid, you’re just doing it all for the love. I miss that.”
That attitude is why teammates were so happy for Finney-Smith when he signed his new four-year contract worth better than $50-million midway through last season.
Given that Finney-Smith was never drafted, it’s one of the rewards for years of hard work that have turned him into one of the NBA’s best defensive players and a solid 3-point shooter.
“It puts a smile on my face to be in a position to give back,” he said. “That’s what this world is all about. It’s great to be able to help people, especially kids.”
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