With a Torres Strait Islander flag wrapped around his shoulders and an NBA Championship cap on his head, Patty Mills was trying to take it all in.
He was standing on stage in the middle of San Antonio’s AT&T Center, streamers were falling from the roof, his captain Tim Duncan was holding the NBA championship trophy, his Boomer teammate Aron Baynes was smiling nearby with an Australian flag and 18,581 fans were screaming.
His San Antonio Spurs had just defeated the Miami Heat 104-87 to take the best-of-seven finals series 4-1 and avenge last year’s haunting collapse to the Heat.
“I really don’t know how to process it, but it’s great,” Mills told San Antonio TV station KENS 5.
A year ago Canberra-born Mills watched from the bench as the Spurs fell to a heroic LeBron James, who led the Heat from a 3-2 deficit to steal the NBA Championship.
Mills tortured his body during the off-season, cutting his body fat percentage from 13 to 5.8 per cent and impressing head coach Gregg Popovich, who had given him the nickname Fatty Patty.
The trim, hungry Mills became the back-up to veteran point guard Tony Parker and his effort paid off for himself, and the Spurs, in Sunday’s win.
In a five-minute stretch in the third quarter with James trying to inspire another comeback, Mills let loose.
He blew past James for a reverse lay up and drew an offensive foul on Ray Allen.
Then came the long bombs.
Mills hit four consecutive three-pointers.
When the last one dropped, the Spurs were up 73-53 late in the third quarter, the Heat were done and Spurs staff were rolling out tubs of ice and champagne in their locker room.
Mills had 17 points for the game, with 14 in the crucial third quarter.
“He’s a special guy,” Popovich said after the game.
“His energy has been important to us all year long.
“He’s a real significant reason why we got to the finals.”
It was the Spurs’ fifth championship since 1999 and it was also historic for Australia.
Mills and Baynes join the elite club of Luc Longley and Andrew Gaze as Aussies with NBA Championship rings.
Spurs 22-year-old forward Kawhi Leonard, with 22 points and 10 rebounds, was named the finals MVP and another veteran Manu Ginobili had 19 points, including a monster dunk that defied his 36 years.
When Mills, whose father Benny is a Torres Strait Islander, walked off the court late in the fourth quarter with the Spurs well ahead the San Antonio crowd gave him a standing ovation.
“I feel like the hard work, the cruel pain, going through all of that change, it has all paid off,” Mills, looking back on his off-season fitness regimen and strict diet, said.
James had 31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots, but received little help from his All-Star teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Mills may have played his last game for the Spurs.
His two-year $US2.22 million ($A2.33 million) contract has come to an end and his stock is high not only after his shooting display in the title-winning game, but for his renowned reputation as a teammate.
He should expect some lucrative offers.
Mills said last week there have been no contract talks with the Spurs, with his and the team’s sole focus on winning the title.
“To be honest, there hasn’t been any talk about that,” Mills told AAP.
“It has been such a focused, determined, head-down mentality for the whole year.”