SAN ANTONIO — On Tuesday, two days removed from their Game 6 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder that put them in the 2014 NBA Finals, Gregg Popovich brought the Spurs together to begin planning for the Miami Heat.
Before diagramming any Xs or Os, the coach asked his players to help one of their teammates, point guard Patty Mills, celebrate a special day.
Popovich explained to his players the significance of June 3 to Indigenous Australians, who celebrate it as Eddie Mabo Day, the anniversary of a high court decision recognizing the land rights of Indigenous Australians and, specifically, Torres Strait Islanders.
The Torres Strait Islands are within the boundaries of Australia but in the straits between the far Northern tip of Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Welling with emotion as Popovich spoke, Mills, the son of an Indigenous Torres Strait Islander father and an Indigenous South Australian mother, found himself at a loss for words.
“It was unbelievable,” said Mills, who earned a role as Tony Parker's backup this season, his fifth in the NBA. “I had no idea Pop was going to do it. I had no idea he even knew about (Mabo Day), but for him to bring that up in a meeting before the NBA Finals, just to give everyone a heads-up, was very special.”