NBA star Patty Mills returns to Canberra
Patrick Mills is awarded the Keys to Canberra in a ceremony in Civic Square. (L-R) Andrew Barr, Patrick Mills, Aron Baynes, and Shane Rattenbury with the Keys to the City and NBA Trophy. Photo: Rohan Thomson
He just received the keys to Canberra and left town on a private jet, but it didn't stop NBA star Patty Mills from copping a parking fine at his own Civic reception on Friday.
And while an ACT government spokesman said it was safe to say the fine would be waived, being treated no differently suits the humble Mills down to the ground.
Mills was given a rousing welcome home when fans packed Civic Square to watch the San Antonio guard accept the city's highest honour, after the Spurs won the NBA title, with teammate Aron Baynes and the Larry O'Brien trophy in tow.
Only the day before, he joked to The Canberra Times the keys to the city ''may get me some free parking'', which obviously wasn't read by one unwitting parking attendant.
It proves despite recently signing a new three-year, $12 million contract with the Spurs and being feted by about a thousand fans in his home town, Mills is still a man of the people.
It's why the 25-year-old wants to help resurrect the program which helped spark his passion for basketball, the Shadows, possibly as patron.
The senior teams have continued to compete since the multicultural and Australian indigenous basketball club founded by his parents 25 years ago shut down in 2012, and now it's almost certain the junior ranks will return by September this year.
Mills first began playing as a four-year-old through the program, and recently admitted ''it crushes me it doesn't exist anymore".
His relative, Dion Devow, is interim president of the Shadows and wants Mills to be their figurehead.
They have acquired a $10,000 grant from the ACT Chamber of Commerce, enough to pay for uniforms and get four junior sides up and running.
"We've asked uncle Benny [Mills' father] to possibly have Patty as the patron, and Benny said that probably wouldn't be an issue,'' Devow said.
"Patty's wanted to get the team up and running the last couple of years, but it's about finding people who have the time to do it.
"With his recent success it's given momentum to us. It's a start, and we're really excited about it.''
It wasn't that long ago Mills and Baynes were scholarship holders at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, and winning an NBA title was a distant dream.
"It was made even sweeter by Patty and I first playing together just down the road when he was 15 and I was 17,'' Baynes said.
"To get to hold this thing [trophy] together was pretty special.''
It's the fairytale story which the Shadows hope will inspire more kids to play basketball.
Australian Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis recently declared he wanted to use Mills and NBA draftee Dante Exum as poster boys in the battle for talent with AFL.
It already appears to be working, judging by the swarms of youngsters wearing Spurs No.8 jerseys at the reception on Friday.
"Now our uncle Patty is an NBA champion, it's raised new hope for indigenous kids to chase their dreams in basketball and other sports,'' Mills' 12-year-old cousin and Shadows member Gabrielle Petersen said.
"We can chase our dreams, and the first step to that is the Shadows.''
Mills said he wants to use his profile to highlight his culture and heritage, and show youngsters they can achieve their dreams.
"The fact I've worked hard to play in the NBA and at the elite level, I'm just using it to promote my culture and heritage, represent my country and Canberra," he said.
"I put it on myself to be a role model for all Australian kids, especially indigenous kids.
"If they see me up here today, they see it's just me. I'm just a little indigenous boy from Canberra, and that's it.
"It just takes hard work and the passion and desire to want to achieve greatness.
"Hopefully I can pass that onto the young ones who have the same dream."