The last time Dorian Finney-Smith had contact — real physical contact — with his father, DFS was a toddler and his father, Elbert Smith was headed to a Virginia prison for second degree murder for his role in a dispute that turned deadly. Smith didn’t fire the fatal shots but was convicted nonetheless.
For the next 28 years, 9 months and 10 days, Elbert Smith moved from prison to prison in Virginia until Tuesday when he was finally released, the result of a son’s drive to reunite his family.
On Wednesday, the Dallas Morning News Brad Townsend recorded the moment Finney-Smith had fought for.
Shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, 52-year-old Elbert Smith was escorted from his cell in Virginia’s Greensville Correctional Center to, at last, freedom. Awaiting were Elbert’s ex-wife Desiree, adult daughter Monnazjea and 30-year-old NBA player son, Dorian Finney-Smith. Father and son opened their arms and, for the first time since Dorian was a toddler, touched flesh to flesh, half crying, half laughing, saying little. “We just hugged,” Finney-Smith said. “A long, long hug. So many questions and stuff that we have. It was very emotional.”
Back in July, the Virginia Parole Board granted Elbert Smith Jr. his freedom, shortening his sentence from 44 years to time served. Since then, DFS has been dealing with the state prison bureaucracy, which Townsend described as “overcrowded and understaffed,” in hopes of a family Christmas celebration.
“He’s here for Christmas; that’s what matters,” Finney-Smith said. “This is the best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten. Besides the births of my kids, this is up there with the best days I’ve ever had.”
Finney-Smith also paid tribute to his former team and its owner, Mark Cuban. Cuban lent DFS some of his legal resources to help facilitate the release. Cuban even provided a written testimonial on Finney-Smith’s behalf. Finney-Smith will be part of his father’s support staff.
“Thank you to the Mavs family for this. This is past basketball. You can’t even try to put into words what they did in this situation.” Finney-Smith told the Morning News reporter.
He thanked the Brooklyn Nets organization for being supportive and allowing him to travel to Virginia for the reunion, noting that he had hardly slept the two nights before Elbert Smith’s release.
Prior to Brooklyn’s contest against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, Head Coach Jacque Vaughn had this to say on the watershed moment:
Definitely, as an organization, we were very supportive in Doe flying back and being there for that special day. And you never know what guys are dealing with when they’re playing on the floor. And so whether we get guys that were sick that where playing on the road trip, whether you got a guy that was going to touch his father for the first time and come to flesh-to-flesh and feel his father for the first time. So, you give the Mavs organization an extreme amount of credit for the work they did from the beginning when Doe was there. Hopefully, Doe felt the support from his Brooklyn family here. We definitely support him going and being there and you talk about the ultimate Christmas gift for Doe’s kids to be there as well. Pretty, pretty touching this time of year, when you try to hone in on the things that makes life simple and uncomplicated, it’s family and being able to appreciate that.
“I had never felt his physique,” Finney-Smith said. “I had to size him up real quick. He’s a big dude. He’s wide. “We smiled and laughed, my sister and my mom hugged him, as well. There wasn’t much for me to say. We all just laughed about the fact that it was so unbelievable.”
- After nearly 30 years, Dorian Finney-Smith reunites with father: the ‘best Christmas gift’ ($) - Brad Townsend - Dallas Morning News
- What we know about the release of Elbert Smith, Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith’s father - Dallas Morning News
- Nets’ Dorian Finney-Smith gets emotional reunion after dad’s 28-year incarceration - Jared Schwartz - New York Post