NBA commissioner Adam Silver added some new context about the prospect of the league expanding to Mexico City at the 2022 NBA Mexico City Game, the first regular season game held by the league south of the border since 2019.
With the success of the Capitanes — the Mexican capital’s G League team — this season and the growth of the country’s NBA fanbase to roughly 30 million souls, Silver related that while the league is not currently ready to expand, Mexico City is among the top locations the NBA is looking at for a potential new franchise to be added to the league.
“Over the last three decades, we’ve experienced tremendous growth of the game here in México,” related Silver. “It’s now a top-five market outside the U.S. and Canada for the NBA.”
Dec 17, 2022; Mexico City, MEX; A general overall view of the NBA Mexico City Game 2022 logo at center court as Miami Heat guard Victor Oladipo (4) dribbles the ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones (33) during the first half at the Arena de Ciudad de Mexico. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Capitanes have given the league a window into what having a full-fledged NBA team in the city might be like, according to the Commissioner.
“We think that’s an important next step in terms of the development in this market,” he explained.
“It gives us an opportunity to better understand what it means to operate on the ground here in México City, dealing with local culture, obviously a different language, all the other circumstances around possibly having an NBA franchise here one day.”
The local excitement the Capitanes have provoked has been enormous, according to Silver, who pushed back against some of the more frequent concerns raised by those who doubt the potential of a Mexican NBA franchise.
Dec 17, 2022; Mexico City, MEX; A Spanish language advertisement for the NBA app featuring Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum at the NBA Mexico City Game 2022 at the Arena de Ciudad de Mexico. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
“In terms of México City, I believe you’re doing all the things necessary to demonstrate to the league that ultimately we may be in a position to house an NBA team here,” he suggested. Certainly from a travel standpoint, it’s very accessible, time zone-wise, and of course, climate.
“México City is the largest city in North America (with an) incredible population of 120 million people (in México) who love sport.”
Dec 17, 2022; Mexico City, MEX; A female fan with a Nike foam finger poses at the NBA Mexico City Game 2022 at the Arena de Ciudad de Mexico. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Citing the importance of growing interest in the sport locally from the grassroots, the league commissioner also pointed to how the Junior NBA program and the Academy in San Luis Potosi are part of the larger puzzle for establishing the sport more firmly in Latin America and Mexico specifically.
Still, Silver emphasized that several other pending concerns would need resolution before expansion into any city would be on the table, saying that “while expansion is not on the front burner for the league right now … we want to get a new collective bargaining agreement, our media deals are up soon, so we need to renew those, as well, but then we will turn to expansion.”
Dec 17, 2022; Mexico City, MEX; The NBA Mexico City Game 2022 logo at center court at the Arena de Ciudad de Mexico. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
“I don’t have a specific timeline right now in terms of expansion, but there’s no doubt we will be looking seriously at México City over time,” he related, noting that the “market size, the beautiful state-of-the-art arena, quality hotels, and entertainment and restaurants and fervent fan support” all are favorable for expansion.
Silver also cited the growth of streaming platforms as a means of increasing the relevance of an NBA team in the city in ways traditional media models might have done less well to do.
Dec 17, 2022; Mexico City, MEX; The San Antonio Spurs mascot The Coyote waves a flag during the NBA Mexico City Game 2022 against the Miami Heat at the Arena de Ciudad de Mexico. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
With the not-insubstantial concerns of a new CBA and media rights deal to tackle, it sounds as if expansion, while very likely to happen in the medium term, will have to wait a few years to actually begin to happen.
But when it does, the prevailing wisdom that Seattle and Las Vegas were locks may no longer be such a sure bet — at least with regard to the gambling capital of the US, if not the former home of the SuperSonics.
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Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire