Sometimes it’s easy to forget that NBA players are actually people. This is especially true on media day when expectations are high and eyes are focused on the upcoming season. It’s here—as players are paraded in front of awaiting cameras—where both fans and media can forget about the outside world, focusing more on pick-and-rolls and rebounding. Beyond the lights, however, is reality and for Dennis Smith Jr., that reality is filled with water.
On the morning of September 14, Hurricane Florence slammed into the North Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm. Although the storm had been downgraded, it still packed a punch with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall. Smith’s hometown of Fayetteville, though inland, was not spared in the days that followed.
“I think, in terms of the rain and all that, I think it’s the biggest hurricane in North Carolina history if I’m not mistaken,” Smith said. “It’s had a major impact. There has been a numerous amount of fatalities. It’s been hard.”
Florence is the wettest storm on record in the history of the Carolinas. Its heavy rains brought record flooding to the area, with water levels surpassing those of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. At the time, Matthew’s high water mark of 58 feet on the Cape Fear River was considered a 500-year flood event. Last Wednesday, the river, which flows through Fayetteville, crested at 61.58 feet—nearly 27 feet above flood stage—according to the Fayetteville Observer.
Smith first got word of the storm’s potential impact on Fayetteville from his father, he told The Undefeated. At the time, he hoped that everyone that could get out of Florence’s path would, but he knew his family was going to stay put and ride it out. At least two members of his family had their homes flood. Luckily, everyone is otherwise safe.
Three people are reported to have died in Cumberland County, where Fayetteville sits, as the result of Florence. Today, many roads and businesses still remain closed due to flooding and power outages. As the waters continue to recede almost two weeks after Florence made landfall, the full scope of the damage the storm wrought becoming clear.
As cleanup efforts get underway, Smith says that he wants to help and that the Dallas Mavericks have offered to assist him. He just doesn’t know what those efforts will look like at this point.
“I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do,” Smith said. “My whole family is in Fayetteville. I still have people that I deal with in Fayetteville, so I’m going to make some kind of contribution to help them out. In terms of my family, everybody is doing fine right now. We’ve got a really big family so they’re helping each other out. I’m thankful for that.”