Indigenous Sport Month: Boomers star Patty Mills funding dreams of 160 young Indigenous Australians

No one will say how much Patty Mills is paying to find our next Indigenous basketball star.

But know, it’s a lot.

“And a lot,” says one mate, “for even an NBA star”.

Which is saying something, right?

Especially when you recall how legendary LA Laker Shaquille O’Neal, he once shelled out $40,000 just to have a Superman logo embedded into his SUV grill.

While Washington point guard Gilbert Arenas, after buying a $40,000 gold chain and $60,000 stereo system, then went and used the leftover change, around seven grand, to get himself a shark tank.

Elsewhere, Carmelo Anthony bought a camel, DeShawn Stevenson an ATM for the lounge room, while poor ‘ol Scotty Pippen outlayed $4 million for a jet that wouldn’t fly — even after an additional $1 million in repairs.

Rather than buy planes, he wants to put Indigenous kids on them.

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Camera IconNBA basketballer Patty Mills does a remarkable amount of charity work, particularly with Indigenous kids chasing a dream in basketball. Credit: Supplied

Specifically, 160 basketballers who come July will converge on the Gold Coast for the inaugural national championships of his Indigenous Community Basketball League.

Forget simply gifting these kids their first ride on an aeroplane. Some come from Aboriginal communities so remote, they have never even owned basketball shoes before.

Or played organised sport of any kind.

Which is why Mills, in between training for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, is also spending time ensuring flights, accommodation, venues, referees, food, even uniforms are sorted.

That, and paying for it all from his own pocket.

Just as Mills is also organising a two-day Junior NBA camp for 48 of Australia’s best young indigenous basketballers.

Again, on his own dime.

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Camera IconMills is also involved in the installation of basketball courts throughout remote Indigenous communities. Credit: Supplied

Elsewhere, the Australian Boomer is beginning talks too which could lead to partnering with another breakout Aussie group, Charity Bounce, whose work includes the installation of basketball courts throughout remote Indigenous communities.

Already, the not-for-profit charity has created two courts in the communities of Nyewente and Indulkana, while also putting some 150 Indigenous youths into jobs and scores more through training modules focused heavily on resiliency.

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Asked exactly where else he envisions to put the innovative courts, created out of movable panels, Charity Bounce CEO Ian Heininger says: “Wherever they don’t exist”.

Again, which interests Mills.

Which is why, right now, and unlike former Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger, the Aussie won’t be using his NBA paycheques to build a replica Bat Cave. Or as was the case for New York Knicks point guard Jarrett Jack, purchasing 1500 pair of sneakers.

No, for this San Antonio Spurs’ star and wife Alyssa, a whole stack of zeros are being pushed towards the first year of this 32-year-old’s new charity, Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA).

Sure, Mills has also this year launched the ‘We Got You’ campaign to eliminate racism and exclusion in Australian sport. Just as he also raised $750,000 from nine Australian NBA players in wake of the country’s bushfires.

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Camera IconMills helped raise $750,000 for fire relief Down Under. Credit: Supplied

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Camera IconMills as a young child gets his first taste of basketball. Credit: Supplied

Yet his real passion project is getting indigenous kids into organised sport via the IBA and his inaugural Indigenous Community Basketball League — which involved separate tournaments over two months across eight regions in Australia.

Each league was open to boys and girls aged between 12 and 14 years — with the best 48 then chosen to attend the Junior NBA camp. All eight regions are also sending teams to Mills’ national championships in the July school holidays.

Apart from funding the entire costs of every player, the NBA superstar is also shelling out for all coaches, managers, referees and officials.

With good reason, too.

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Camera IconMills is determined to see more Indigenous Australians play in the NBA. Credit: Supplied

Currently, Mills and Nathan Jawai are the only two Indigenous Australians to play in the NBA.

A statistic the Spurs superstar not only dislikes, but wants to change.

“Me giving back to my people within basketball is something that I just have to do,” he said recently.

Just as importantly, it has to be now.

“I was that little boy one time looking up to role models,” the NBA star added. “It’s one of those things that to start somewhere, the kids gotta be able to see someone doing it.”

 

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