Dallas Mavericks forward and former Norcom High star Dorian Finney-Smith celebrates a playoff victory with team owner Mark Cuban, left, and teammates Luka Doncic, center, and Maxi Kleber. Finney-Smith’s foundation will host a black tie gala on July 29 at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott. Cuban will be the keynote speaker. Tony Gutierrez/AP
Finney-Smith’s foundation will host black tie gala featuring Mavs owner
For the past four years, Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith has held youth basketball camps and food drives as a way to give back to his hometown of Portsmouth.
Last year, more than 500 families received food baskets and gift cards from the Finney-Smith Foundation Inc. in partnership with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.
Now, the former Norcom High standout is about to do more.
At the urging of former high school classmate Erin Carter, Finney-Smith is stepping outside of his comfort zone after Carter suggested he try putting on a black tie gala.
At first, Finney-Smith wasn’t sold on the idea.
“Dorian was like, ‘You think people are going to show up for me?,” said Carter, who is a board member for the Finney-Smith Foundation Inc. “And I was like, ‘Yes, people are going to show up for you.’ ”
They were going to do it a couple of years ago, but then COVID happened.
Carter insisted they try it again this year.
So, on July 29, the Finney-Smith Foundation Inc. will host its inaugural Black Tie Gala at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott.
Finney-Smith’s mother, Desiree, had her doubts.“Erin has always been saying, ‘Guys, we need to step it up and lets do this black tie event.’ And I was like, ‘No’ because I was scared,” Desiree said. “But Erin got on it, she did it, and it just took off.”
Carter didn’t stop there.
She wanted to bring in a powerful keynote speaker for the first one. She suggested Dorian’s boss, Mark Cuban.
Cuban isn’t just the owner of the Mavericks, but a billionaire entrepreneur, television personality and media proprietor. He is ranked No. 177 on the 2020 Forbes 400 list.
“Dorian didn’t believe that Mark Cuban would show up to Norfolk,” Carter said with a chuckle.” We got on the phone with Mark Cuban’s team, and it wasn’t even a hard sell. They said, ‘With all the work [Finney-Smith] does in the community, that’s the least we could do. So we’re going to show up for Dorian.’ ”
Not just Cuban, but the Mavericks’ front-office staff and coaches are expected to come as well.
Upon hearing that, Finney-Smith was floored.
“It feels really good. I’m just so low-key, and I don’t ask anybody for nothing,” said Finney-Smith, 29. “I didn’t think people would want to support it. It was Erin and [my brother] Ben who said, ‘We’re just going to ask.’ And they asked. And his people said he would love to do it just because I don’t really ask for nothing. And anything they ever ask me to do, I do it.”
In a released statement, Cuban, the star of a television show, said, “I look forward to being with Dorian in his hometown to help celebrate with his foundation for the great work they do to impact the community every year and to recognize great business and community leaders of the Hampton Roads community.”
Finney-Smith and Carter’s friendship goes back to their freshmen year at Norcom. Carter had just transferred in. They met in their honors World History class.
“First day of class, I sat right beside her,” Finney-Smith said. “We laugh about it now because it was destined for me to sit right next to her.”
The two formed a friendship and when Carter ran for senior class president, he jumped at the change to help her.
It also helped that he was the younger brother of former Norcom two-sport star Ben Finney, a former All-Tidewater selection in both basketball and football.
“She was quiet,” said Finney-Smith, a two-time All-Tidewater Player of the Year who led Norcom to back-to-back Group AAA, Eastern Region and Eastern District titles. “And with me having a brother and who he was, I already kind of had a name because of Ben.”
Carter, who also was the class valedictorian, remembers it well.
“He gave me my first endorsement. We were in the hallway after lunch, and he told everyone to vote for me,” she said. “He was humble and quiet. But the one thing about Dorian that has remained consistent throughout the years that I have known him is his work ethic and his belief in his craft. He is always positive and always believes the glass is half full versus half empty. His dream has become his reality, and he’s living it now.”
Their relationship continued even as each went their separate ways.
Finney-Smith went to Virginia Tech before transferring to Florida. He then went undrafted but signed as a free agent with the Mavericks.
“When he didn’t get drafted, Mark Cuban called him himself,” Desiree said. “That was my reason for going to Dallas because the owner himself called, not the coach. He came in with a good relationship.”
His hard work paid off when the Mavericks signed him to a four-year, $52 million contract extension.
Carter, who was named to Inside Business’ 2018 Top 40 Under 40 honoree, serves as an outreach advisor to U.S. Sen. Mark Warner.
“She’s been amazing,” Finney-Smith said about Carter. “She’s more hands on with the city because I travel so much. She’s been a great addition to me giving back to the city.”
Now they’re ready for the big event later this month when they honor Bishop Kim W. Brown, senior pastor of The Mount in Chesapeake; Howard Kern, CEO of Sentara Healthcare; Taylor Lawson, founder of Code Blue of Hampton Roads; Dr. Angela Reddix, author, philanthropist and CEO of ARDX; Dr. Devon Henry, rector of Norfolk State University Board of Visitors and CEO of Team Henry Enterprises, and Virginia Natural Gas for the Corporate Citizen Award.
“It’s important to me because, first of all, we’re bringing Mark Cuban to Hampton Roads,” Finney-Smith said. “I’m also trying to do something big with my foundation and the city. I can’t give it away right now. But I just want people to have a good time, but also let everyone know what we’re trying to do and what we’ve been doing so far.”
The weekend also will include a youth basketball camp on July 30 and a cookout and a coed softball tournament on July 31.
Carter said she’s proud of Finney-Smith and being a part of the gala, which will be a room of Who’s Who in the Hampton Roads community.
“It’s just amazing to see that through all the years, Dorian never forgot about home,” she said. “And he never forgot what it meant to be a kid in Portsmouth and to grow up and not have all the luxuries of life.
“He always talks about home and how he just wants to set an example. He can’t go around and write a check for every family, but he wants to let kids know that if he could do it, they can do it, too. This is just another way of doing that.”
For tickets to the gala, visit Finney-smithblacktie.eventbrite.com
Larry Rubama, 757-575-6449, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @LHRubama