There was no father in the household when Finney-Smith grew up, so his oldest brother Ra-Shawn “Peanut” Finney became the male leader. Ra-Shawn was an honor roll student, captain of the football team and worked at Pizza Hut. As the primary source of income in the family, Peanut paid for basketball trips and other school needs. He was a role model for Dorian and his other siblings.
Dorian’s mother, Desiree, cleaned houses and businesses, and all six of her children blossomed into standout athletes. The family didn’t have much, but they had enough and plenty of love to keep things moving. Life was good.
Then on September 13, 2008, everything changed.
Dorian was 16 years old the night he saw his brother gunned down. Ra-Shawn had just played the best high school football game of his career when the pair went to celebrate.
Later that night, at a house party, Dorian was just a few feet away from his brother when a man shot Ra-Shawn seven times in the arm, chest and shoulder.
Two weeks later, Ra-Shawn Finney succumbed to his wounds. He never spoke again through his voice, but conveyed his love through his eyes. All these years later, Dorian can still remember small details that forever shaped his life.
“When I speak about it, it’s therapeutic,” Finney-Smith explained. “It still hurts, but I know my story can help somebody else. Just going through that as a teenager, I feel like it can be impactful for someone else. I feel like I hung on to it for so long that it messed with me as a person.”
The star athlete that Dallas Mavs fans have grown to love — better known as Doe Doe around these parts — gripped a high school audience on Tuesday afternoon when he talked about Peanut and the other circumstances of his life.
The native of Norcom, Va., appeared at Metro Opportunity High School in Fort Worth in honor of Mentorship Month. Metro Opportunity is an alternative school that takes a restorative approach to help students creatively approach challenges and solve problems. Finney-Smith told the students how inner healing comes by speaking hope amid darkness.
Ra-Shawn’s life had a purpose, and Dorian will keep his name alive by telling his story.
“I know I can relate to many of these kids,” Finney-Smith said. “If they can take anything I said today and make a difference, I did my job. I’m thankful to serve others, share my experiences and play a game I love.”
Three students who spoke to Mavs.com said Finney-Smith’s visit drastically impacted them and gave them the courage to speak. Eighth-grader Jayden Sampson has grown up with an incarcerated father and recently lost her brother to violence. She was moved to tears when hearing Dorian’s story.
“What he shared is going to help me. When he brought up his brother, I understood because my brother was just killed, and his brother was killed,” said Sampson, overwhelmed with emotions. “My father left when I was two years old, and he’s on death row, so I don’t have a father, either. So it inspires me to keep going and follow my dreams.”
Both Dorian’s and Jayden’s stories point to the importance of Mentorship Month, honored each January by the Dallas Mavericks and teams around the NBA. The Mavs partnered with Big Thought, a local nonprofit on alternative education, to host the event with Finney-Smith at Metro Opportunity Center at Handley.
Mentorship Month celebrates the power of supportive and meaningful relationships and teaches others how sharing experiences can change a young person’s life.
“I think it’s important, even now as an adult, to find people who you can communicate with and open up to,” Finney-Smith shared with the students. “We have to let it out.
The second thing is, you have to hang around like-minded people. I have a great group of friends who I’m still in contact with today. All of us didn’t make it to the NBA, but we still pushed each other to be better people. My best friend is a teacher and my other best friend is an entreprenuer and owns a couple houses, so we all pushed each other. And then, even though I didn’t have my pops, I had my older brother who showed me the ropes. They all played a role in who I am today.”
After speaking to the students, the Mavs swingman hosted a mini basketball clinic alongside Mavs Academy coaches. Finney-Smith told the kids to never feel ashamed for what they endure and to be the difference makers in their schools and communities.
Principal Aundra Bohanon said the visit was important for the students and teachers.
“I think mentorship is the biggest thing because students come from all sorts of backgrounds,” Bohanon said. “By hearing Dorian’s story, it helps them realize they can go a long way and be successful.”
Finney-Smith knows about pushing forward, despite all odds.
His most incredible flex is not ascending to the NBA but earning his sociology degree from the University of Florida. He graduated with a degree in Family, Youth and Community Science, and he’s putting everything he learned into practice these days. Doe is also the proud father of three young children, paving a path for the future generation.
The 6-foot-7, 220-pounder has evolved into one of the best defenders in the NBA. After missing a stretch of games, he hopes to return Wednesday night against Atlanta.
It will be his first game in a month and it happens to fall on the week of Peanut’s birthday. Ra-Shawn would have turned 33 this week.
Dorian says his brother is always close to his heart. Anytime he looks down during the game, he remembers the letters inked on his chest.
It says R-a-s-h-a-w-n.
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