Australian basketball icon Patty Mills in an Illawarra Hawks jersey? Talk about a dream come true for the Wollongong faithful.
As it turned out, it proved a one-off, but one-offs don't come more significant than when Mills addressed the global NBA media in the Hawks first ever Indigenous jersey five years ago; the first Indigenous jersey of any kind in the NBL.
These days, few sporting codes do Indigenous Round better, but back in December of 2018 there's no question Australia's national league had lagged behind other codes in acknowledging Indigenous people's contribution to the game.
The AFL had held its first Indigenous Round a decade earlier in 2007. The NRL held its first Indigenous All-Stars game in 2010, and followed suit with its first league-wide Indigenous Round in 2014.
Having been a gun rugby league player in his youth, former Hawks guard Tyson Demos had long harboured a desire to see the NBL catch up while he was a player, but had received little more than vague assurances it was on the long-term agenda.
In the end, he and the Hawks took matters into their own hands at the end of 2018, partnering with the Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service to make its December 16 clash with arch-rivals Sydney that year the league's first Indigenous game.
"For us it was a no-brainer, but it just wasn't getting done so we went and did it ourselves," Demos recalls.
"It was something that we spoke about when I was playing and it was something that we wanted to do and just, for whatever reason, we couldn't make it happen.
"[Subsequently] being a part of it as a coach and the community engagement manager with the Hawks, we were able to get the round off the ground with support from the the Illawarra Aboriginal Medical Service and Kane Ellis, the CEO there.
"It obviously got a great response, not only from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, but a lot of the community as a whole. It was obviously well received in Wollongong but all over Australia as well.
"Essentially it raised awareness of the importance of the round to the NBL and they followed suit and started the Indigenous round up."
While it received emphatic support at a local level, one of the key aspects of the initiative was to gift Indigenous greats Nate Jawai and Mills - among others - custom made jerseys.
Jawai had became the first Indigenous Australian to be drafted into the NBA in 2008 when selected by Indiana, with Mills joining him when he was selected by Portland in the following year's draft.
When Mills put the jersey on global show, and also called out the league's attempts to take ownership of the Hawks initiative online, the push for an Indigenous Round became a juggernaut.
"It wasn't just only Patty, there was ex-NBL players and AFL players that really backed it as well, but having one of the greatest basketballers in Australian history, and him being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, obviously put pressure on and raised awareness on the importance of it and the round," Demos said.
"He was obviously super proud and really supported it. That year he implemented the same thing in the NBA when he was playing for the Spurs. He touched base with the traditional owners of San Antonio and the Spurs ended up running their own Indigenous night, which I was fortunate enough to be a part of and get to attend as well.
"These small events like this, they can have snowball effect, not only for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here, but all over the world."
Following the inaugural game itself, then Sydney coach and Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze also lent his voice to the push when asked if he felt an Indigenous Round should be rolled out league-wide.
"I love it, I absolutely love it," he said in the post-game presser.
"It is a privilege of playing the game that we can be part of a process to educate. To share in this and what Illawarra have done to create that awareness... thank goodness it was against us. I think it's an unbelievable initiative.
"When you think of what many of our indigenous communities go through, and look at the privileges we have as a sport, it provides a really good perspective.
"Through these games, if we can educate ourselves a little bit on some of the challenges, that in this society we should be very concerned about, to say we as a nation need to do better.
"These type of things can help us get better and that's a good situation."
Hawks coach Rob Beveridge was singing from the same hymn sheet when the question was put to him that night.
"I'm super proud of what we've done," Beveridge said.
"I was honoured and privileged to be a part of this game and I'll look back my career down the track and and say I was there the night we opened some doors for the NBL."
The NBL instituted a league-wide Indigenous Round within a season, with the Hawks set to once again take on the Kings in Wollongong on Friday in the annual occasion's fifth year.
The league has also put a Reconciliation Action Plan in place and introduced a landmark Indigenous Player Rule thats sees the league contribute to contracts for clubs who identify and recruit Indigenous talent, with the contracts also subject to salary cap exemptions.
While the league deserves credit for the initiatives, Demos said there's always room for growth and improvement.
"[The round is] obviously something that I'm super proud of and now I'm at the stage where I want to see it keep growing," Demos said.
"It doesn't just have to happen over this round. I've seen Biwali (Bayles) quoted saying 'we wear this every time we step on the floor'. We're representing our people, our family, our mob or whether it's a community event, it's all year round for us.
"I think [the NBL's] definitely made it a focus across the NBL as a whole, but also supporting the clubs in really developing and supporting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players that are in the NBL, and also trying to get more players into the league as well.
"Something that I want to see is the Indigenous Round really sort of start to grow and see the clubs doing more in community, engaging more in community. That's where I'm excited to see it grow."
It's something Demos has a deeply personal interest in through his dual roles with Indigenous Basketball Australia and as the Australian Basketball Players Association's Indigenous Engagement manager.
It sees him work with Indigenous players throughout the NBL, WNBL, Boomers and Opals programs, the type of role he feels the original Hawks Indigenous Round contributed to.
"There's a lot of different local Indigenous basketball organisations in each state that are really there supporting and building different pathways for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids, but I definitely think that it played a part in promoting and getting more kids into playing basketball," Demos said.
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