Coming into the offseason, we all knew that a drastic transformation of the San Antonio Spurs was a possibility. Still, knowing that the team could undergo such an overhaul didn't make it any easier to see it play out right before our eyes.
Many Spurs fans were happy to see DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay take their talents elsewhere. They'd given years to the franchise and the fans appreciated them for that, but there was a loud section of the fanbase who preferred to see their minutes passed along to younger players who will dictate the next few years. But the one veteran that most of us wanted to see brought back was Patty Mills.
Mills would ultimately agree to a two-year deal with the Brooklyn Nets that will net him a cool $12 million. A member of the Spurs since 2011, Mills was the longest-tenured member of the roster, the only player remaining from the 2014 NBA Championship team, and the unquestioned heart and soul of the team.
Losing a player who means this much to a fanbase is never easy and this one is particularly complicated because it now puts many fans in the position of having to half-heartedly root for the Nets, if only so that we can see Patty succeed.
No matter how Patty's time in Brooklyn goes, there is only one thing left for him to do - have his jersey retired by the San Antonio Spurs. Here's the case for why he deserves to have his number hung in the rafters with the other Spurs greats.
Why Patty Mills deserves to have his number retired by the San Antonio Spurs
When considering a player's case for having their jersey retired by a team, I think it's fair to view their candidacy in three distinct buckets: their impact on the success of the team, their place in the team's record books, and what they meant to their organization and the community they played in. Looking back at Patty's decade with the Spurs, it's hard to make the argument that he doesn't deserve to see his number retired.
Let's start with the first bucket - his impact on the success of the team. Even though he was never the best player on the team, his impact could be felt every time he stepped on the court. If the Spurs needed a three, Patty was there. If they need someone to spell Tony Parker or Dejounte Murray while they got some much-needed rest, Patty was there. If they needed him to show up when it mattered most and deliver 17 points off the bench in a close-out Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals, yep, Patty was there.
His ability to help the team be successful translated to his off-court actions as well. When the Big Three had all retired, Patty was the lone carryover from that era, a true steward of the Spurs way. In embodying that mindset, Patty seemed to genuinely enjoy helping mentor the young players on the team and help pave the way for the organization's success long after he had moved on.
And even though Mills rarely started for the Spurs, that didn't stop him from racking up points and cementing himself in the franchise's record books. He's going to go down as one of the greatest shooters in franchise history. His 1,171 made threes rank second on the Spurs all-time list, just behind another player who had his jersey retired just a few years ago - Manu Ginobili.
Finally, if you need any proof of how much Patty meant to the San Antonio Spurs organization and the San Antonio community at large, look no further than this quote from Gregg Popovich that was shared in the Spurs touching tribute video to Patty's time with the team.
"We didn't know what we were getting, really, when we got him. As a basketball player, he's gone off the charts with development. But as a human being and as a member of our society and a leader on our team, he's been fantastic. He embodies empathy, awareness, an ability to be actionable after he speaks about things. He's a very special human being. He's done things to try to make the world a better place."
His impact in the locker room will be sorely missed but so will his impact on the community. Throughout his time in San Antonio, Mills consistently made helping small businesses and social justice a priority - both in his adopted community in Texas and back in Australia. And while donations, activism, and being a champion for equality might not impact the box score, it's certainly something that needs to be considered when debating recognizing a player with something as special as retiring their jersey.
At the end of the day, the decision to retire a player's jersey or not is entirely up to the organization and what they value most. It's the highest honor that a franchise can show a player, and for all that he's done for the San Antonio Spurs and their community, there's only one way this should end - with Patty's jersey hung up with the other San Antonio Spurs greats.
*Note: This is part of a debate series. You can find the case against retiring Patty Mill's number if you click here.