Spurs’ Mills aims to raise awareness of Indigenous cultures

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              San Antonio Spurs' Patty Mills celebrates a 3-point basket during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 118-105. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
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MIAMI (AP) — Patty Mills stood in the corner of the court, looking at the rest of his San Antonio Spurs wrapping up a recent practice.

Different races, different countries, different cultures were all represented. The significance was not lost on Mills, who has been in San Antonio longer than any player on the roster.

“You see how multicultural it is,” Mills said. “We’re a melting pot organization.”

And now Mills is trying to shine a brighter light on his own culture. Mills — an Australian whose mother is Aboriginal and whose father is from the Torres Strait Islands — and the Spurs are hosting a celebration of Indigenous cultures on Sunday, coinciding with San Antonio’s home game against Miami.

The day will include performances by the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation — a Native American group composed of descendants of indigenous people who first settled what would eventually become San Antonio — as well as a giveaway of a bobblehead depicting Mills holding his ancestral flags.

“Coming to San Antonio, being able to share my story, I’ve been accepted as another person who has a different culture to share,” Mills said. “We’ve kind of bonded over that camaraderie, having something in common. That’s why I’ve felt so at home in San Antonio, learning a new culture and sharing my own. I think it works both ways.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he completely supports Mills’ initiative.

“He wasn’t prodded or coaxed or anything like that,” Popovich said. “This is all his desire and what he wanted to be involved in, for sure.”

Mills’ efforts Sunday come at a time when Australia — with help from many around the world — is trying to deal with unprecedented wildfires that have burned more than 40,000 square miles worth of brushland, rainforests and national parks. By one estimate, more than 1 billion wild animals have died in the fires.

“You try to put out the fires, so to speak,” Mills said. “But hopefully this has widened everyone’s perspective on how we can hopefully prevent these things. I think coming together and uniting is the key factor at this point in time. All Australians, Indigenous Australians, I honestly feel it is a sign that we’ve become a little too disconnected with our land.”

Mills would like this event to carry beyond Sunday.

“There are indigenous people throughout the world and hopefully the message can reach those people and make them want to achieve the best, whether that’s basketball or sport or anything else,” he said. “That’s the message. I’m using my story to be able to connect with other people. Even if you’re not Indigenous or native to where you’re from, I hope you can connect with the story.”