A mother's vow to find a Dallas Mavericks Barbie leads to a worldwide chase - 27 minutes read

David Fleming, ESPN Senior WriterJul 21, 2023, 08:00 AM ETClose Senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and FlemFile columnist for ESPN.com.
Has written more than 30 cover stories for SI and ESPN.
Author of "Noah's Rainbow" (a father's memoir) and "Breaker Boys" (stolen 1925 NFL title).

FIVE YEARS INTO her NBA Barbie quest, a frustrated Marilyn Harvey stood up in the closing moments of her 2004 family reunion in Alabama. She grabbed the microphone and prepared to issue her loved ones an ultimatum. Out of respect for Harvey, a prep basketball pioneer in Alabama, a longtime nurse and the family matriarch, the raucous room of nearly 100 family members from across the country fell silent. Most of them knew that for years Harvey, a hoops junkie with a force-of-nature personality, had been on a mission to secure the entire NBA Barbie doll collection for her Barbie-obsessed daughter, Candice, who was then 13.

In 1999, the NBA and Mattel teamed up to sell a one-time, leaguewide collab featuring Black and white Barbies outfitted in each franchise's authentic uniform and warmup top. The dolls also came with white high-tops, knee braces, an official NBA basketball the size of a marble and a large hairbrush that, proportionately, was the size of a cello. Barbie's sartorial timing on the collab was rather impeccable, since nearly half the teams during this NBA era incorporated some kind of funky variation of purple or teal in their outfits, starting with Detroit's horrifically awesome teal horsehead jerseys. That memorable Pistons logo and the other 28 NBA team logos were featured on the back of every NBA Barbie doll box near a special 888 number for more info on the dolls and the phrase: Own all 29 NBA Barbie dolls and have the coolest collection in the world!

The challenge was especially powerful for the Harveys: Marilyn was a Michael Jordan fanatic and a starter on the first women's basketball team at Pike County High in Brundidge, Alabama; Candice, as a kid, slept in Barbie sheets, sent Santa a complaint letter for not bringing her a Barbie Jeep and, for a short time, dreamed of dental school after seeing a dentist Barbie.

"For me, the connection with Barbie was representation, first, and of course her ultimate fabulosity," says Candice, 32, who was her high school valedictorian, went the business Barbie route in earning her MBA and now works for the USDA in Atlanta. "More than anything else, though, this is one of my connections to my momma. She loves the NBA. Sports wasn't my thing. But I loved Barbie. And I'll never forget how very intentional she was about finding a complete collection of dolls from a sport she loved that looked just like me."

Although the majority of their growing collection was made up of Black NBA Barbies, the ultimate goal for Marilyn and Candice was to complete the set. "I was bananas for Barbie by then," Candice says. "She could have been any color or race and we still would love her just as much."

In the internet days of the early 2000s, searching still meant logging countless hours on the phone and in the car. And after months of searching every toy store within 100 miles of her home, Marilyn had managed to locate 28 of the 29 NBA Barbie dolls -- which seems impossible, at first, until you meet Marilyn.

"You don't mess with a momma on a mission," she says.

All they needed was one stubborn holdout:

The Dallas Mavericks Barbie.

More than a billion Barbies have been produced since her debut in New York City on March 9, 1959. But Marilyn has never found concrete proof that the Dallas Mavs Barbie was ever a part of that group.

Marilyn tried everything. She checked stores while on business trips and vacations. She harassed nieces in Texas. She asked co-workers at the hospital to help search. She even called the Mattel customer service number on the Barbie box to ask if they had somehow made a mistake and just forgotten to make one. The doll is out there, somewhere, a company rep promised. Her epic search even caught the attention of the local Troy Messenger newspaper. Birthdays passed. Christmases came and went. The futile search for the elusive Mavs Barbie waned on until Marilyn's last-ditch plea at the 2004 family reunion.

"I want to talk about something really important!" she shouted into the mic. "Look: I don't ask ya'll for anything. But by golly, there's enough of us that live across this country, and you all now have one mission and one mission only between now and our next reunion: Find me this missing Dallas Mavericks doll!"

No one ever did.

Twenty years later, as the world braces for Barbiemania with the opening of the "Barbie" movie, the search continues and the mystery has only deepened surrounding the missing Dallas dolls.

Theories abound, of course, in the collectible's world about the lost Mavs Barbies. Marilyn, for one, has begun to wonder if the dolls ever existed in the first place and Mattel is just covering up a colossal Barbie blunder. Because, while the white Mavs Barbies are extremely scarce, there is at least proof of their existence floating around the internet. But when it comes to the Black Dallas Mavs Barbie, not a single one of the nearly 50 Barbie collectors from around the globe contacted by ESPN could ever recall laying eyes on one in person. "The NBA Barbies are the most beautiful collection I've ever seen," says Wade Lewis, a collector from the Bronx, New York, who's been on the hunt since 1999. "I've got all of 'em, except for one. You know which one. Dallas Mavericks Barbie. That thing is a true needle in a haystack."

After all this time, the Harveys are now hoping the movie will finally do the trick and shake the elusive Mavs doll loose from someone's toy chest, attic or storage unit. The new goal, when ESPN first reached out to the Harveys this spring, was to locate the missing doll before a big family wedding in New Orleans just a few days before the "Barbie" movie premiere. And when we offered to help with their latest quest, or, at least get to the bottom of this mystery once and for all, the Harveys were happy to team up.

Just as long as we knew who's boss.

"I want my collection to be complete, OK?" says Marilyn, who gave her son the middle name Xavier after the "X-Man," Xavier McDaniel. "Right now, it's incomplete and I can't think of anything in my life I haven't completed."

Adds Candice, "I was raised to go after what I want and see it through to the end. No one's told me we're at the end yet. First, it was 'We'll find it for your 10th birthday.' Then, it was for graduation, then before college ends, then, when you get your first house. And the older I get the more, I think this is important to finish. So, yeah, I'm just not going to be OK until our collection is complete."

Barbie has no idea who she's messing with.

Candice and Marilyn Harvey have been searching for the Dallas Mavericks Barbie since the NBA collaboration was released in 1999. Courtesy Harvey family


OUR HUNT BEGINS here, with a hard-target search of more than a dozen Dallas area toy, collectible and memorabilia stores along with a handful of Goodwill and thrift stores. Todd's Toys has a decent Barbie collection featuring a NASCAR Barbie and a Destiny Child Barbie but no Mavs Barbies. (It's too bad we're not looking for a Darth Nowitzki doll because even with the "Barbie" movie opening soon, Star Wars dominates the vintage toy game.) Nearby, there are Mia Hamm Barbies, Rebecca Lobo Barbies and Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Barbies inside the crowded, museum-like Dallas Vintage Toys but, again, a quick electronic check of the store's entire inventory comes back with zero Mavs dolls.

Passing time during the inventory search, an employee mentions the recent controversy over the Luka Doncic mural painted in the Deep Ellum neighborhood. The painting depicted the sad-faced Mavs superstar holding a sign that read "Please send help," a clear message that fans have grown frustrated with the 38-44 Mavs and the seemingly slow search for talent to build around Doncic.

The team's search for its own Barbie goes pretty much the same way.

In 2021, when the Mavs made Cynthia Marshall the NBA's first Black woman to be a CEO, Candice called the team store in Dallas hoping the move would inspire the franchise to produce the missing Barbies. "They had no idea whatsoever what I was talking about," Candice laughs. Just before the recent July Fourth holiday, a Mavericks team rep reached out to former assistant GM Keith Grant, who had just retired after 42 years with the team, and actually had two Barbie-loving daughters who grew up in the 1990s.

Six days later, Grant reported back: He's not familiar with the "elusive Mavs Barbie" and neither are his daughters.

Maybe a new mural is in order, one with our lost Mavs Barbie holding the "Please send help" sign.

The current Mavs struggles are nothing compared to what the franchise looked like in 1998-99, however, when even the perpetually upbeat Barbie herself might have refused to rep a Mavs uni. At that point, Dallas had gone eight straight seasons without making the playoffs while averaging 60 losses each campaign. (By the way, the 1998-99 roster was impressive with future MVPs Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash sharing the floor with Shawn Bradley, Michael Finley, John "Hot Rod" Williams and current UNC coach Hubert Davis.) "It was kind of sad, though, honestly," says current Oklahoma City Thunder broadcaster Matt Pinto, who was on the Mavs' radio team that season. "It had started to seem like one of those endless stretches in pro sports where there's just a cloud over the organization."

The future was definitely bright in Dallas with the selection of Nowitzki, a new arena on the horizon and the sale to Mark Cuban. But one working theory about the missing Mavs Barbie is that the whole thing was, well, kind of Shawn Bradley's fault. In 1998, the Mavs were near the bottom of the league in wins and attendance and after the lockout that year, even their die-hard fans had lost interest. So, the theory goes, Mattel decided to manufacture a bare minimum of Mavs dolls as part of their NBA Barbie collection. In other words, while the six-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls might have gotten as many as 40,000 Barbies in the collection, 10,000 or fewer Mavs dolls likely found their way into circulation.

All we had to do was find one.

How hard could that be?

Retired mailman Wade Lewis has an almost-complete NBA Barbie collection listed on eBay. Courtesy Wade Lewis

Dusseldorf, Germany

AS THE GUINNESS world-record holder for the largest Barbie collection on Earth (currently somewhere north of 18,500) surely, Dusseldorf's Bettina Dorfman, 62, will have a Mavs dolly or, at least, know where to locate one.

As an only child, Bettina started collecting (or, perhaps hoarding is a more accurate term) Barbie dolls when she was 10. Now, wobbly stacks of collectibles fill every nook and cranny of her jam-packed basement/museum.

With dramatic, silver Barbie-replica bangs (she cuts herself), Bettina has become a bit of a rock star in the Barbie collector world, so much so that fans have even started leaving dolls on her doorstep. She's considered an expert at repairing and appraising Barbies, has published several Barbie books, developed a worldwide network online and often shows her exquisite vintage "Flower Power" Barbie collection from the 1960s at shows all over Europe.

Her current exhibit, titled "Busy Girl," is a retrospective of the 250 or so jobs Barbie has held since 1959, from astronaut to zookeeper. "Barbie shows that women can do all the jobs, from the babysits to the presidents," Bettina says, after her delightful Zoom quirk of pausing for a moment and turning her head to the side to practice/scream the sentence in German first.

When I inquire about Barbie's employment stint with the Dallas Mavericks in the late 1990s, Bettina actually seems, well, hopeful. It turns out her daughter, Melissa Dorfmann, is a national level table tennis player and instructor at the renowned Borussia Dusseldorf Club, home to four-time Olympic medalist and eight-time European champion Timo Boll. And Bettina believes Melissa might have "the dolls of basketball." Although it worries me a little that when she promises to search her collection and online sources for the doll and get right back to me, Bettina keeps referring to the NBA as the NNBA.

A few days later, though, the email update arrives:

I have not find this doll in my collection. I have asked the other collectors but they don't have this doll, too. I will have a look to find the Barbie. I will inform you!

Best whishes


When the inform never comes, I decide to stop messing around and go directly to the source.

Barbie was the brainchild of Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler, here with husband Elliot. The first Barbie debuted in March 1959. AP Photo

El Segundo, California

BILL GREENING BEGAN collecting Barbies in 1988 when he was 16. A decade later, he started at Mattel and now he's the principal designer on the Barbie Signature team and de facto company historian. "But this is probably the first time I've been asked about Barbie's history with sports," he says. "I had to study for this."

Originally, Barbie was the brainchild of Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler. In the 1950s, the legend goes, after watching her daughter Barbara projecting her dreams of adulthood fabulosity onto a flimsy paper doll, Ruth decided to produce a 3D doll worthy of a young girl's highest aspirations. Barbie was introduced on March 9, 1959, at the American Toy Fair in New York City. Mattel sold 300,000 tiny-waisted, busty Barbie dolls in the first year. In 2021, the number was 86 million. Ken came along in 1961. Christie, the first Black doll in the Barbie line, was introduced in 1968. A Black doll with the name "Barbie" wouldn't come out until 1980.

Along the way, Barbie has dealt with her fair share of controversy, mostly about her narrow and unrealistic beauty and body standards. "Everybody has a Barbie story to tell," Greening says. "That's my philosophy, whether you love her or hate her, everyone has an opinion on Barbie, everyone has a story to share."

In the 1960s, Barbie's story with sports was mostly recreational. In the 1970s, Mattel produced an Olympic Barbie. "Of course she came with a gold medal," Greening says. "She's Barbie." More recently, the trend with sports Barbies has been to collab with famous athletes, including Billie Jean King, Mia Hamm, Gabby Douglas and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. (The NBA Barbies went on sale in 1999 for $24.99 and celebrity antique appraiser Dr. Lori Verderame tells me they could be worth up to $300 each today, which is still relatively cheap in a world where the diamond-studded Stefano Canturi Barbie went for $300,000 in 2010.)

Before our chat, Greening double-checked with Mattel's archive team and confirmed that the Dallas Mavs Barbie dolls were indeed produced and copyrighted in 1998, then scanned into the company's digital catalogue/database before officially going on sale with the other 57 dolls in the NBA collection in 1999.

Greening agrees with the low-production-numbers theory based on Dallas's struggles on the court and plummeting fan base. But he added a twist: The Mavs NBA title in 2011 might have also contributed to the scarcity of the dolls. Whatever limited numbers of Barbies did manage to hit the market in 1999 probably got scooped up in a buying frenzy after the Mavs won their only title.

Mattel's official stance, then, is that there was no mistake and definitely no cover-up. More than likely the missing Mavs Barbie doll is just a quirk of the collectible's world, the whims of little girls and the equally irrefutable laws of supply and demand.

But, in a way, that only makes them seem even more precious.

"It happens a lot and it's really, really powerful: You've got sports fans who are also Barbie fans and it's like all your loves rolled up into one collection," Greening says. "My guess with the Mavs Barbie is it was just a very small run that sold out super-duper quick."

Greening throws out one last possibility: If all else fails, there's an upcoming Barbie Collectors Convention in Orlando, Florida, featuring more than 1,000 attendees from around the world.

"We will all keep a lookout for that doll in Orlando," he promises. "And if I see one when I get to the convention, I will say 'Please hold this for Dave.' That's what Barbie's all about. Teamwork."

Renowned Barbie doll collector Bettina Dorfmann sets up the exhibition "Busy girl: Barbie makes a career" at the Ostfriesisches Landesmuseum in Emden, Germany. Sina Schuldt/picture alliance/Getty Images


Named Singapore's "Most Eligible Bachelor" by CLEO Singapore, Jian Yang has the largest Barbie collection in Asia (over 12,000), a substantial enough following on social media to be considered a Barbie "influencer" and is the author of -- I swear to God -- "Flushable Fashion," a travelogue and collection of stunning Barbie dresses he constructed out of ... toilet paper from around the globe. (We are now at the part of the search where things have turned wonderfully, epically weird.) Truth be told, though, I'm more interested in Yang's day job as the head of strategy for the marketing and PR firm Distilleri and the expertise he can lend to the sociological side of our increasingly futile feeling hunt for the missing Mavs Barbie. And in just a few minutes online, Yang has uncovered enough proof -- a stock keeping unit number (20728) and several seemingly original photos -- to conclude that the Mavs Barbie dolls do, in fact, still exist.

Yang then points out how the popular and new "Top Gun Maverick" Barbies might be skewing search engines and hiding the NBA Mavericks Barbie in a kind of electronic Google desert. He believes the burgeoning "clearance culture" of the late 1990s might have also been to blame. (Just a few months after they went on sale, the NBA Barbies were discounted to $6.99.) But his main theory as to why they've disappeared is so simple it's genius: We forget our beloved Barbie is a toy, first and foremost.

"We're only looking at the tip of the iceberg," Yang says. "Never forget that Barbie is a toy, primarily. Five percent of the people who consume Barbies are adults. The rest are a bunch of girls who have her in the swimming pool or buried in the sand with her head missing."

Another huge factor is that the NBA Barbies were from the "gymnast" line of dolls, meaning they had what was at the time the most bendable, articulated Barbie bodies in history which would have inspired even more "play" and less "save." To highlight this, in her original packaging, NBA Barbie's left leg is bent disturbingly beyond 90 degrees.

NBA Barbies were also made with flat feet, which means no high heels. In the movie trailer, modern-day Barbie has to deal with the horror of having her heels on the ground. She can blame the NBA Barbies for setting this in motion 25 years ago, back when having a functioning heel made Barbie a bit of a heel herself.

Knowing this it's easy to imagine a sweetly clueless dad in Dallas in 1999 excitedly giving his daughter a Barbie from his favorite NBA team, only to have their bonding moment ruined when she tears it open and responds, Ugh, Daaad, you bought me the wrong Barbie! and immediately puts the doll in a different outfit.

"So that Mavs doll still exists," Yang says. "There are probably a lot of them out there, actually, but no one has any idea she's the missing Mavs Barbie because she's wearing a dress."

The search for the missing Mavs doll included a stop at the National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention. "That's what Barbie's all about," says Bill Greening, principal designer on the Barbie Signature team. "Teamwork." Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle/Getty Images

Bronx, New York

STUPIDLY, I REACH out to a fellow NBA Barbie collector on eBay and, being new to the collectibles game, I blab to the guy exactly what I'm looking for and why. A retired mail carrier from the Bronx, Wade Lewis has been searching for the same missing Mavs Barbie since 1999. (Most days he does a minimum of four internet searches for the doll.) Among his 215 listings on eBay, Lewis is asking for a quarter million dollars for an Allen Iverson rookie card with a misprint. He's also got what looks like an actual portfolio from Vincent Van Gogh. What Lewis doesn't have is the Mavs Barbie.

As a result, when I first contact Lewis, his 1999 NBA Barbie collection has 27 dolls and is listed for $4,500. After our initial communication, though, Lewis doubles his efforts and, in early July, he locates a white Mavs Barbie in Memphis, Tennessee, and snags it, right out from under my stinkin' nose, for -- get this -- $47.31. And with this set, Lewis immediately (and, unapologetically) jacks the price up to ... $75,000.

The smugness just oozes through the phone as Lewis giddily walks me through what it felt like to actually lasso a unicorn. "Twenty-five years, every day, I searched the world for her, so this was a gift from the universe for all the energy I put in," Lewis says. "I waited, watched. Waited, watched. Watched. Watched. Waited. Waited. She popped up out of one of these storage places with like five or six other NBA dolls and when I seen her, the Dallas Mavs doll, I yelled, 'Oh my gosh: Give me that!' It took me about a blink of an eye to buy it. Then I thought: I know what I have. I've got something nobody else in the world has, so let's throw some punches."

The next day, Lewis's 57-doll NBA Barbie collection (29 white Barbies and 28 Black Barbies) is listed for a cool $100,000.

"It's a big ocean," Lewis says of his Barbie search. "This is like looking for treasure. You just have to wait her out. But she'll show up. At some point, she will show up."

I'm beginning to seriously doubt it, though.

Fans pose with a Barbie van at the National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention in Orlando earlier this month. David Fleming

Orlando, Florida

A BOSTON TERRIER relieves itself in the grove of palm trees outside the Hyatt Regency while its owner, dressed in jorts and a skin-tight Barbie tank top, juggles a coffee and a FaceTime call. A few feet away, the driveway to the valet stand is slowly piling up with cars as two grandmotherly women in heart-shaped sunglasses and huge pink poodle skirts pose for pictures in front of a pastel Barbie sprinter van with the license plate: BARBIER. I might never get my rental car parked, and I'm still reeling about getting outplayed by a Yankees fan, but I have officially arrived at the National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention, my last, and possibly best, chance at finding the missing Mavs Barbie.

After filling my phone with photos from a series of life-sized Barbie doll boxes and movie poster backdrops, I pay $10 for a sparkly gold wristband that gives me access to two massive ballrooms full of everything Barbie, from across the globe, as far as the eye can see. Once I catch my breath, I go straight to the biggest vendor, a woman from Chicago with a Moschino Barbie in a leather jacket on sale for $685, and explain my predicament. Before I even finish, though, she's already shaking her head. "Play line," she mutters, dismissively. Translation: never intended to be collected or protected.

For the next five hours, I wander around in a funk, hearing a slightly different version of this same explanation from, oh, 30 collectors or so. Everywhere around me are fencing Barbies, Olympic Barbies, skiing Barbies, tennis Barbies, NASCAR Barbies, cheerleader Barbies, but not a single NBA Barbie to be found. Suddenly, I long for the NFL season and to be back in the comparatively hospitable confines of a Bill Belichick locker room. And, I swear, if one more Barbie-quoting collector pats me on the back and tells me to "Hold onto your dreams" or that "Anything is possible" and "The magic really happens when you believe in yourself," I'm going to lose it.

I can't be sure because I lost track of time, but at one point I think I spent almost an hour with my nose buried in a stack of Barbie Bazaar magazines from the 1990s. Then, near the end of the day, when I catch myself humming "Barbie Girl" by Aqua while rummaging through a giant clearance pile of $5 unboxed bargain Barbies all wrapped in cheap plastic, the realization hits me like a runaway Barbie Dream Camper.

I've officially hit rock bottom.

Arlington, Texas

A DAY BEFORE this story is due, as I'm literally pacing back and forth in front of my desk staring at my phone working up the courage to call and update the Harveys, my cohort in this quest, Texas-based ESPN reporter Alonzo Olmedo (the Ken to my Barbie, if you will) emails to say he might have actually located a Dallas freakin' Mavs Barbie on Facebook Marketplace.

I message the seller and try to bluff my way through the conversation by throwing around terms like NRFB (never removed from box) and MIB (mint in box). But something feels off. At first she says she can take PayPal and will mail my Barbie to me. But after I offer her full asking price ($75) she then insists on cash and an in-person pickup ... at a gas station.

Well, I've come this far, I mumble to myself, before typing my Hail Mary into Messenger. OK, where?

The address she gives is near Arlington, 15 minutes from Alonzo's house. Is this a Barbie Miracle?

I Venmo Alonzo the money and arrange for the cash payment and pickup at 7:45 p.m. the next night. Alonzo arrives 30 minutes early. After a scorching day in Texas, his car says the temperature is 109 as he watches the sun set behind a QuikTrip that is just a few minutes from AT&T Stadium.

At first, the seller is a no-show. But after a little bit of last-second cajoling and negotiating, she arrives at pump 9 at 8:25 p.m. on the back of a scooter driven by her boyfriend. Alonzo inspects the doll, a white Barbie with the Mavs uniform. The box is sealed. The hologram, barcode and stock keeping unit number all seem correct. The "Indiana Jones" moment is the hairbrush, hidden at the bottom of the box and unknown to most newbies. It's there. Alonzo hands over the cash and places the doll in the passenger seat of his car.

And then, like a dad leaving a hospital with a newborn, he makes the short drive home. "Very carefully," he says.

Several tortuous minutes after sending him a pleading "all good?" text, Alonzo arrives home and my phone lights up with a response.

Smiling back at me in the dark, it's her, it's actually her.

More than 20 years after their search began, the Harveys welcome home the final piece of their NBA Barbie collection. David Fleming

Brundidge, Alabama

THE DAY AFTER bravely securing it at the QT in Arlington, Alonzo bubble-wrapped our Barbie like she was the Mona Lisa and overnighted her to me in North Carolina as I scrambled to make travel plans to rural Alabama while alerting the Harveys of my visit without giving away too much. After a plane ride through a thunderstorm, a long drive through the night and a sleepless night in a hotel, I brace myself as I approach Marilyn's front door. The Harvey home is a red brick cottage set back off a crepe myrtle-lined side street in a tiny, tight-knit town once known for its peanut butter production just a few miles east of Troy University.

And then, the strangest thing yet happens: Candice, who is wearing a Barbie T-shirt, barely even acknowledges my giant Barbie pink gift bag. After a long night shift at the hospital, a subdued Marilyn doesn't inquire about it, either.

Some of the Harvey's prized 28 NBA Barbies are on display in Candice's childhood bedroom next to a sign: "Don't be afraid to dream ... for out of such fragile things come miracles." The rest of the dolls are in Marilyn's room, organized by -- of course -- NBA divisions.

After nearly 25 years of aggravating and fruitless searching (Candice's phone still beeps with Google alerts for NBA Barbie), Marilyn had finally lost hope and become fully resigned to the fact that her dream doll just didn't exist. She sees my gift bag and figures I'm probably carrying a "Barbie" movie doll or some other consolation prize.

But as soon as I hand it to her and she sees my beaming face and the faint NBA logo underneath the bubble wrap, Marilyn -- I don't really know how to describe this -- she lights up and melts all at the same time.

"Oh, don't do this to me, David, don't tease me like this," she cries while pulling at the wrap.

A euphoric scream of "Oh God, oh my goodness" is followed by a long, high-pitched joyous, half laugh, half cry of "Ooooow." There's a moment of stunned silence. More gentle unwrapping. And then, tears. Lots and lots of tears.

"After all these years..." Candice sniffles.

Standing at the end of the kitchen table, practically cheek-to-cheek, with trembling hands and tear-soaked faces, together, mother and daughter finally unwrap their Dallas Mavericks Barbie.

"It's her! She's gorgeous!" Candice says.

Marilyn just says one word, over and over: "Faith."

And if you think this is all a little much, well, you just don't get Barbie, or what she means to people like the Harveys or the worldwide Barbie community that made this moment happen.

"I don't cry easily, but I'm emotional right now and it's about finally finding the doll but everything else around it, mostly my momma, mostly the kindness people, strangers, showed us," Candice says. "We will always have this connection and this moment together, forever. It's extremely special. I have been dreaming of this most of my life and it happened. We did it."

After a brief discussion about jumping in my rental car and driving to Texas so we can all give Alonzo a group hug, Marilyn goes right into collector mode, pulling Barbies out of rooms and shelves and drawers all over the house, finally, finally getting to line up her entire NBA Barbie Collection on the living room couch without that awkward, annoying chasm between the Bulls and Denver Nuggets. In all the hoopla, when the Miami Heat doll slips off the couch and falls to the floor, Marilyn coos at it: "It's OK, sweetie, you're OK, sweetie." Then she steps back, takes in the sight, tugs on her "Kindness Matters" T-shirt and giggles, "It's like I can finally exhale."

The plan now is for Candice to take the 29 dolls back to Georgia and display them in her new home, at least until next year's Harvey family reunion in Brundidge, where Marilyn plans to show them off and close the loop on her familial plea in 2004. Eventually Marilyn wants to donate the collection to charity or a museum. Maybe even the Smithsonian.

"I will never sell them," she says. "This is not about that. This is about finishing what you start and believing in what you're doing, and if it's meaningful to you, that's all that really matters. This is meaningful to me. This is a dream, realized, and a reunion, too! Barbie was missing, she was lost, for a long time. But now she's with the rest of her team. She's with her family.

"Barbie's home."

Additional reporting by Alonzo Olmedo.

Source: ESPN

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