The Latest from Priority Sports
The Latest from Priority Sports
FOR a bloke being paid megabucks over the next four years, Australian NBA star Joe Ingles is refreshingly humble.
As one of the nation’s highest paid athletes, you could forgive Ingles for carrying an assured swagger that precedes the $US52 million ($67m) he is being paid.
But there is no ego about the Utah Jazz small forward.
When you talk to Ingles, you quickly discover why he’ll never let the fame and fortune go to his head.
Well spoken, polite and welcoming, the boy from Adelaide is appreciative of his remarkable rise in the world’s best basketball competition.
Even now, Ingles struggles to comprehend the fact the Jazz were willing to fork out such significant money.
“It still hasn’t sunk in,” Ingles told The Saturday Telegraph.
“I remember reading it (the contract) somewhere and I never thought I would be in a situation like this.
“I mean, I’m not going to change. I am who I am. I’m about to turn 30 now and I’ve been like that my whole life.
“People looking from the outside might think that things will change because I’ll have access to a lot more money, but it won’t happen.”
Ingles could easily spend the money on his guilty pleasure, vintage cars.
He already has a ’65 Mustang and would love to add to his garage, but he can see the bigger picture.
Ingles knows he wouldn’t be in the NBA without his family.
He remembers his older sister Megan playing the role of parent while his father Tim spent weekdays working tirelessly in a factory.
He also hails his wife Renae, who has always been there for him despite having her own international netball career.
It’s why Ingles wants to give back, not only to his loved ones.
“We are going to do a lot of stuff with underprivileged children and families,” he says.
“I mean, we don’t need that much money. Nobody in the world needs that much money.
“So we’ll spend a lot of time helping out kids and families that need the help.
“We’ll start in Utah because we are going to be there in a few months, but then we’ll do some things in Australia.
“But the most pleasure I get out of all of it is that my kids (twins Jacob and Milla) will be OK. The financial side and the stability of the four years is something that I’ve always wanted and I’ve been lucky enough to get it now.”
TALE OF DETERMINATION
After claiming the NBL Rookie of the Year in his maiden season with South Dragons in 2006 and leading them to their first title two years later, the club folded due to financial difficulties.
Ingles had a brief stint with Golden State at the 2009 NBA Summer League, before taking his talents to Spain for the next four years.
The move ended up being a huge success. He won the 2013-14 Euroleague championship with Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv, paving the way for another shot at the NBA with the LA Clippers.
Then heartbreak hit.
After playing five pre-season games with the Clippers, he was waived just days before what would have been his first match.
“That was probably the first time when I was like, ‘maybe I won’t make the NBA’,” he recalls.
“I was 27, I missed out on the Clippers which I thought I was going to be a good fit for their team.
“I thought, well I enjoy Europe, so I’ll go there or come back to the NBL.”
Two days after the Clippers cut, he was picked up by Utah on a “bargain basement” $1m contract and played 79 games that season before signing a two-year deal of $4.3m.
It’s a twist of fate he’ll never forget.
“Timing for me was my last chance,” he says frankly.
“It’s funny, because not everyone can make the NBA, but timing and being in the right situation is something that can make or break someone or a team.
“But the situation couldn’t have been a better situation.”
Ingles is now a standout performer with Utah. He excelled during their impressive run through to the Western Conference second round against eventual champions Golden State.
His rise, reached through a dogged determination, is something he now wants to use to inspire the next generation.
It’s why, just moments before our interview, he gave his sneakers to a random kid.
“It was the biggest thing in the world for him,” Ingles said.
“It’s like, here are my stinky old Nikes that I’ve worn a bunch and I don’t even want them on anymore and it’s easier for me to go home without them.
“But to see that light up his face. He is never going to wear them, but he can look at them or whatever he wants to do.”
It would be a major understatement to say Ingles is hurting after the Boomers fell short of Australia’s first men’s medal at the Rio Olympics last year.
“I’ll never watch those games again,” he lamented.
“It wasn’t like a life or death situation, but it meant a lot. For us it was going to be our first chance to win a medal for Australia.
“We thought we had the team going into it and we played really well throughout, but had a couple of bad games and just missed out.
“It still hurts and it is going to hurt until we go to the Worlds and Tokyo and try and change it.
“We’ve got the team, we’ve got the belief and we believe we can win a medal.
“A lot of people don’t and a lot of people doubt us and the way we play, but we are pretty confident we can do it.”
This devastation is why Ingles says the Boomers’ NBA contingent have committed to the World Championships in China in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics a year later.
“They are going to have to kick me off the plane if they don’t want me to go,” he said emphatically.
“I think our whole group will go. There are no contracts or putting pen to paper, but we’ve all spoken about it and we all want to go.”
Ingles has done his time at Utah, now he is ready to start.
Following the departure of Gordon Hayward to Boston, the door has opened for him to play more minutes.
“It’s going to be different, but I’m ready for it,” he said. “I’ve been ready for three years. It is just about opportunity.
“I’ve been lucky with injures to get opportunities here and there and to start in the playoffs.
“I’ll be ready to go. I still think we’ve got a really competitive team, so it’s exciting for our young guys.
“Donovan Mitchell is going to be really good for us and Rodney Hood is going to step up, while Rudy (Gobert) is going to get the ball more.
“It’s an exciting team and I think we will surprise more people than what they think just because we lost Gordon (Hayward).”
As a proud Adelaide product, Ingles has always expressed a desire to one day play for his hometown 36ers in the NBL.
He regularly watches the Australian League and says he would consider owning a franchise.
“Maybe — I’m not going to go into it to lose money,” he said.
“I don’t think there are too many teams making much money, but if it keeps going on the up and up and it’s the right situation, me and Andrew Bogut will have a coffee and talk about it one day when we are old and retired.
“But Bogut can be the majority owner.”