Patty and Aron Trophy Tour Blog
Writing this blog is Spurs basketball communications coordinator, Mitch Heckart. Mitch began with the Spurs in the PR department in April of 2012. A native Oklahoman, the 28-year-old had never been out of the continental United States prior to the #SpursTrophyTour. Follow his journey this summer with the Larry O’Brien Trophy as it visits 2014 NBA championship teammates around the world in their hometowns.
MONDAY, JULY 21
The traveling group arrived to the Torres Strait Islands on Monday around 9:30 a.m. local time. The Islands, home of Patty Mills, proved to be ready for his homecoming. Close family met the Spurs duo at the airport before a quick visit to a community grade school, where Aron and Patty spoke briefly to the children about making good choices, staying in school and always chasing after their dreams.
After a few words (and photos with the trophy) the school children ushered Larry, Patty and Aron down to the docks where they would take a ferry to the nearby Thursday Island (TI).
After we arrived at TI, possibly the coolest part of the trip followed. Hundreds of locals comprised of family and close friends lined the dock to see Patty and Aron unload. Once on land, the two walked a few hundred yards down the streets of TI with all in attendance following – was definitely a site to see. (make sure you check out the blog photos).
Once the parade came to a halt, the two were honored at a community park, where hundreds of school children sat near the stage (I’m sure happy to see Aron, Patty and the Trophy, and also happy to be out of school for the day!). The duo received presents from the city, and Patty also was awarded keys to the district. The two then spent over an hour taking photos and signing autographs for every last kid in attendance.
A few iconic photos around town were next for Patty and Aron. First up was a community basketball court where Patty and his father both grew up playing. Next was Green Hill – which allowed us the best and highest view of Thursday Island (unbelievable shots). Witnessing the sunset at this location was certainly a highlight of my entire #SpursTrophyTour thus far.
TI’s city council and the Mills family then hosted a dinner for Patty, Aron and the traveling party. Tons and tons of food was enjoyed (fried turtle, coconut chicken curry, sausage and steamed rice just to name a few dishes). The crowd was then entertained by the Gerib Sik Torres Islander Group who performed traditional dances to end the evening. Towards the conclusion, Patty joined in for a couple of dances – with the Larry O’Brien Trophy front and center (make sure you see those photos).
After a great day on the Islands, the #SpursTrophyTour Down Under was complete. A seven-day tour that introduced Larry (and myself) to Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Cairns and the Torres Strait Islands was deemed more than successful. Not only did Larry get massive exposure in Australia, but most importantly Patty and Aron were able to share a unique part of the championship experience with their people. Something that they will never forget, and certainly neither will I. What a trip.
SUNDAY, JULY 20
Sunday morning we arrived bright and early to Cairns – home of the BIG Aron Baynes (if I had a dime for every time someone asked how tall he was on the trip, I’d buy a sports car upon my return to San Antonio – answer is 6-10 by the way).
The first item on the agenda was an exciting one. Aron and Patty knew I had never seen some of the Australian animals, so off to the Cairns Zoo we went! First stop was to see the koalas, followed by the wombats, snakes, kangaroos and crocodiles. All made for some great photos. Everyone in the traveling party was able to hold the koala and get very close to the kangaroos (we went in the cage with them). But as for the crocodiles and the snakes? No. No. No.
Immediately after, we all loaded up and went to the community basketball court that Aron and many other Cairns youngsters play competitions (tournaments). These people were ready! The gym that was packed to see the two Australia natives and Larry stroll in. A small press conference was first, where the city welcomed the duo, followed by Aron receiving a banner donning his name that will be hung permanently in the rafters of the gym – I could tell this meant a lot to Aron, very cool stuff.
The two then took time to take photos with everyone in attendance. Before we left (approx. three hours later), the Gerib Sik Torres Strait Islander Group performed traditional dances for those in attendance (Patty himself even got out there and performed). The group started in Canberra and Patty was around when it originated. Very cool sight to see.
The traveling group then identified a couple of special spots around the city to take iconic photos. Because Aron is from here, he wanted shots that showed the beautiful city and water – and boy did we get those (check out the photos).
Aron spent the rest of the evening visiting relatives with the trophy in hand. The group had a “team” dinner before taking off to the final destination of the #SpursTrophyTour Down Under, the Torres Strait Islands.
SATURDAY, JULY 19
Brisbane .. which was described to me as “BrisVegas.” So naturally, I was excited to visit this Australian city. The views and atmosphere did not disappoint.
The morning commenced with Aron and Patty visiting a local children’s hospital. The tear-jerking event saw the two players sign autographs, take photos and most importantly — bring smiles to kids faces desperately in need of them. What a meaningful way for the two to start the weekend.
After a quick trip to the city square to sign autographs for fans, Patty and Aron made their way to a district just on the outskirts of downtown to take a few photos with Larry. The view with the water in the background in front of the cityscape was definitely one to take in. Many fans walking along the water crowded around the two (and later received photos with the duo and Larry). Out of all the fans (adults and children), neither Patty nor Aron has ever declined — always fulfilling the requests. These two are definitely great representatives of the Spurs organization.
The traveling group then made their way to an NRL Rugby Match, featuring the hometown Brisbane Bronchos and the visiting New Zealand Warriors. Patty and Aron were honored with the trophy at halftime in front of the crowd of 35k-plus and snapped a couple of quick photos with Larry at midfield. Postgame, the two surprised the winning home team with Larry in the locker room. Players excitedly passed around the trophy while taking photos with Patty and Aron. A great way to end the day in the fourth of six cities on the #SpursTrophyTour from Down Under.
FRIDAY, JULY 18
Our trip to Canberra was a special one for Patty. Not even an early 6 a.m. wakeup call to visit local radio stations would deter his excitement to visit his hometown with Larry at his side.
After a few morning interviews, Larry, Patty and Aron made their way to town square, where it seemed half the city of Canberra was waiting. With hundreds in attendance, Patty and Aron were welcomed on stage with town dignitaries. The big news came when Patty was awarded keys to the city. Both championship players were then interviewed on-stage, followed by photos and autographs with those in attendance.
The two then made their way to the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) which both players attended in their mid-teens in the city. Aron explained to me that all they did was go to class, eat and practice basketball. Again they were greeted with a big crowd of both family, supporters, alumni and current AIS students. Spurs NBA Championship highlights were shown while Larry sat proud center stage.
Before the sun set, Patty and Aron made their way to the Parliament House to take photos. As the sun finally faded, so did a great day in the hometown of Patty Mills. In all of his interviews and speeches, the Spurs point guard was always quick to thank and give credit to those who helped him along the way … a special day for Patty Mills.
MELBOURNE & SYDNEY - JULY 16 & 17
It’s certainly been a wild couple of days in Australia – as Patty and Aron have taken Larry to the cities of Melbourne (Wednesday) and Sydney (Thursday) to start the six day #SpursTrophyTour from Down Under.
On Wednesday morning, the two gathered at a local establishment and unveiled the trophy for local fans and media. Also during the presser, the two answered questions from media about having Larry on their home turf and how much it meant to them for the Spurs organization to allow the trophy to come meet their hometown people.
There were numerous Spurs fans in attendance, not surprising since Patty played for the Melbourne Tigers of the NBL during the NBA lockout in 2011-12. Patty said he took great pride in playing for his home country during that time away from the NBA.
After a quick radio interview, the two had it on their priority list to visit the AFL (Australian Football League) stadium in Melbourne. After a couple of quick phone calls, the pair were allowed to take Larry down on the field for photos – only after we agreed to let the groundskeepers take their own pics!
After a fan event where local citizens lined the streets of downtown Melbourne just to get a photo with the two and Larry, the Aussie duo was off to Channel Ten to make an appearance on the popular evening show “The Project.”
The traveling crew then quickly made its way to the airport for a speedy hour-long flight to Sydney. At first, the Melbourne Airport told me that Larry and his case were “too heavy to fly.” After a quick look of disbelief, followed by a look of panic, then to a look of “I’m too tired and have traveled too long to take no for an answer,” I explained what the contents of the big metal case were – to which we were granted an exception. Thanks by the way! Pushing that thing down the highway 500 miles would have been a task.
First thing Thursday morning (6 a.m.) Patty and Aron knocked out a couple of radio interviews, followed by an appearance on Channel 7’s “Sunrise,” which is the city’s No. 1 breakfast show.
The two quickly found time for a few iconic photos from around Sydney – which included the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and the city’s downtown. This former Olympic-hosting city has the most unbelievable views. Hope you like the shots.
Patty and Aron will attend another fan event Thursday evening before heading to Canberra on Friday – the hometown of Mr. Mills. We have four more days of the #SpursTrophyTour in Australia, and four more cities to go. What is just as important as keeping Larry all shined up for the fans? Sleep! Catch you again soon.
TUESDAY, JULY 15
Larry departed the New England area around 4 p.m. on Sunday, and after a six hour flight to L.A. followed by a four hour layover and 14 hour flight to Melbourne, the shiny guy returned to the #SpursTrophyTour in Australia. Here, Larry met up with Aussie players Aron Baynes and Patty Mills.
Patty accompanied Larry on the flight from the US to Australia, so the first thing the Spurs guard did when we arrived to his homeland was get Larry out of his case and hold him while strolling out of the airport. Of course this caused quite a few photo opportunties and autograph attempts (I say attempts, because after Patty’s surgery, he can’t sign anything!).
Two things I quickly learned up arriving. The first, it certainly felt like it was six weeks into the winter season (glad I brought the coat). As for the second? Australians drive on the opposite side of the road and the steering wheel is on the what would be the US’ passenger side. Very grateful I won’t have to be driving this trip or we could be in trouble. My only problem is walking to the driver’s seat every time we hop in the car, followed by an "oh yea, other side.” Smh.
The two quickly met up with championship teammate Aron Baynes after lunch to take photos at an iconic spot in Melbourne (which I am told is the Australian version of New York City). The city, which is currently six weeks into winter, was beautiful despite the dreary, chilly day.
We have a jam-packed seven days of events here in Australia, with trips to cities including Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Torres Strait. So hop on the nearest kangaroo and take the ride with us, mates (via this award-winning blog!).