Years ago, I watched a young Aussie score 20 points against the Redeem Team in the quarterfinal round of the 2008 Olympics. While they would lose to the eventual Gold Medal winners, the fight and resolve in this 20-year-old was evident. That was the first time the name Patty Mills came across my register. I would go on to watch him play for Saint Mary’s College, then eventually see him drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers the next year. He didn’t play much in his two seasons with Portland, but that didn’t stop the Spurs from signing him toward the end of the 2011-12 season. He quickly became fully entrenched in my life and that of every other Spurs fan.
In his first full season in the Silver and Black, he didn’t play much as the Spurs were marching their way to a showdown with the Miami Heat in the Finals, but there he was, standing at the end of the bench, waving a towel around, running onto the court to pick teammates up off the floor, and high-fiving them when they came out of the game. While he had minimal usage, his energy never wavered — he was the ultimate pro.
The next season, however, the Spurs were on a revenge tour, and to replace the shooting they lost when Gary Neal left, in stepped Patty Mills. His movement with and without the ball shined, as he became a vital part of what became knows as The Beautiful Game Spurs. Just a cog in the machine, Patty, along with Marco Belinelli and Danny Green, would light teams ablaze with a flurry of threes — the result of the ball whipping around like somebody was playing pinball. That season would result in another Spurs championship, and Patty was cemented as a key piece of the franchise.
Every year after that, Spurs fans could count on him coming into the game around the 6-minute mark of the first quarter to inject his own blend of energy and scoring. No matter who the other four were on the court, Patty’s style always seemed to make its mark. He’s the kind of player you just can’t help but like when you watch him play, even if you weren’t a Spurs fan. And while the last couple of seasons didn’t go the way the team and fans would’ve hoped, everybody could count on Patty to send out his “GAME DAY BALA GAME DAYYY!!!” tweet and bring a positive attitude to every situation.
Off the court, how can we not talk about the coffee gang, the Spuran Spuran video, and his appearances in HEB commercials?
The energy on the court translated extraordinarily to other avenues outside of the AT&T Center. I’m sure we all have a favorite non-basketball related Patty moment, like the video of him vibing in the locker room. And when cameras weren’t on, he was busy forming unbreakable bonds with every one of his teammates, most notably Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, and Manu, and you could see that bond flourish on the court as The Foreign Legion.
All of this is to say, it’s rare that a player who averaged 9 points and 2 assists while playing only 20 minutes per game becomes such a beloved figure. The kind of figure that became my dad’s favorite Spur, where he was requesting his jersey for Christmas (a jersey he would wear every single playoff game for good luck). And I’m sure he wasn’t the only dad, mom, son, or daughter rocking Mills on their back across Spurs Nation. When you think about it, there’s a reason why he became such a fan-favorite and a Spur that could possibly end up with his number 8 hanging in the rafters. He represented everything right about basketball. He was the embodiment of what we consider Spurs culture to be.
Patty Mills is, without question, a Spurs legend. And as weird as it’ll be to see him suiting up in different black and white jerseys, the memories of him in the one with a spur will remain. The only thing left to say, in the words of Bill Land, is “G’Day, Mate!”