The NBA held their inaugural Indigenous Heritage Night, with a Welcome to Country performed by none other than proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander basketballer Patty Mills.

Mills’ team since 2012, the San Antonio Spurs hosted the night on January 20 to pay respect to Indigenous cultures across the globe.

“I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land we have all gathered [on] here today, the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, and pay my respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging,” Mills said.

“In an attempt to highlight the need to preserve, protect and promote traditions and culture of all Indigenous people throughout the world, I’d like to thank the San Antonio Spurs and everyone who contributed in making this – the NBA’s first ever Indigenous night.”

The Spurs saw Mills’ skills soar throughout the game against Miami Heat, with the star player responsible for 18 points of San Antonio’s 107-102 win over Miami.

Mills is having an impact back home in Australia, with the National Basketball League (NBL) announcing they will host their opening Indigenous Round from January 29 to February 2.

“There are a number of Indigenous players, officials and administrators who’ve made an important contribution to basketball both in Australia and New Zealand,” said NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger following the announcement.

The 31-year-old praised the Illawarra Hawks for their Indigenous game in December last year, asking for wider recognition of Indigenous Australians throughout the NBA and NBL.

Mills also worked with San Antonio’s Indigenous people to learn about their customs and traditions, and to create a “capsule collection” clothing range.

Not the first NBA Heritage Night, the association has previously held other cultural heritage games such as Filipino heritage rounds and Australian heritage rounds.

The Australian heritage night had green and gold balloons stationed across every exhibit within the arena, and as Men at Work blasted over the loudspeakers, fans were witness to meat pie eating contests, AFL lessons and Aussie slang.

By Sharnae Watson