When the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA Finals over the Miami Heat on Sunday night at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas, it marked another milestone in the extraordinary career of Patty Mills.
Mills was born in Canberra, Australia, in 1988; his father is a Torres Strait Islander and his mother is an Australian Aborigine of the Ynunga people. “My heritage and my culture and where I’m from mean the most to me, more than anything,” Mills told the New York Times recently. In that article, the writer said that Mills "speaks metaphorically of flying three flags: of Australia, the Aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islands, the archipelago off the northern tip of the continent. When he dressed after Game 2, he wore a tie that was adorned with the image of a dhari, the headdress that is the emblem of the Torres Strait Islanders’ flag, and a pearl shell, which his grandfather used to dive for."
As a young player, Mills was clearly something special, and he racked up a number of honors while making various national teams in Australia. When it came time to leave home for the proving grounds of American NCAA basketball, Mills headed to St. Mary's College in California, following in the footsteps of another Australian player, Daniel Kickert, who was the Gaels' all-time leading scorer. Mills might have gone on to break Kickert's records had he stayed in college, but after two seasons at St. Mary's (as a freshman, he averaged 14.8 points per game; as a sophomore, 18.4 points per game) he opted to enter the NBA draft, and was selected with the 55th pick of the second round by the Portland Trailblazers.
Mills made his debut with the Spurs in 2012, and during that season recorded his career high as an NBA player — 34 points, against the Golden State Warriors.
In last night's game, Mills scored 17 points in 17 minutes for the Spurs — 14 of them in a third-period surge that proved more than Miami could take. Let's go to the videotape:
Mills has established himself as a crowd favorite in San Antonio, but now that the 2013-14 season is in the books, he's a free agent. Whether he suits up in a Spurs jersey next year remains to be seen — he's a hot property, and other clubs have shown interest.
(Mills is not the first Indigenous Australian to play in the NBA — that honor goes to Nathan Jawai, also a Torres Strait Islander, who made his debut in 2009 playing for the Toronto Raptors. Jawai went on to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves as well.)
Following the Finals victory, Mills posed for Twitter holding the flag of his father's people, the Torres Strait Islanders: