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‘The Better I Got in Sports, the Worse the Racism Got’

Reginald Thomas II/San Antonio Spurs

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — There were a few must-pack accessories for Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs for his stay at Walt Disney World. Mills brought a stack of books on Black history in the United States and his native Australia. He made sure to carefully transport his favorite flat-brimmed hat, which bears two flags representing Australia’s Indigenous populations.

Mills also arrived for the restart of the N.B.A. season with what he referred to as “my shield” — his internal defense mechanism to ward off hurtful words and actions. The shield, he said, is a byproduct of a lifetime of racial abuse that began on his first day of kindergarten, soon after Mills’s parents had moved to the Australian capital of Canberra to take jobs with the federal government.