Every season when the NBA plays games in Europe (regular season or exhibition), the question of an NBA team on that continent comes up. And each time it runs into one major obstacle: Travel. It would be difficult even to get an All-Star Game in overseas due to the logistics.
But what about Mexico City?
The NBA packed the house twice this week, once for the Mavericks to beat the Suns on Thursday, then for Spurs vs. Suns on Saturday. There is growing demand for the sport in Mexico, and the travel time issue goes away — it takes less time to fly to Mexico City out of Los Angeles than Chicago, and from New York it’s no worse than any other cross-country flight.
Adam Silver was asked about an All-Star Game in Mexico City at a press conference Saturday and — as is his way — said he was open to the idea.
“And as for an All-Star Game, again, that’s something we’ll look at as well. Again, we need to take a fresh look at the entire format and see what makes the most sense for a midseason break,” Silver said.
What about a franchise in Mexico City? Maybe just don’t expect it soon.
“The next step before we start talking about a franchise in Mexico City is to bring more games here, and we have this two regular-season games and whether we bring additional regular-season games next season or do some sort of tournament with several teams playing each other, that is something that we are looking at…
“… In terms of a franchise in Mexico, most likely Mexico City, it’s something that we’re going to look at,” Silver said. “This is an incredible market, well over 20 million people, the largest market in North America. While we have no immediate plans to expand in the NBA, one of the things that we look at is whether expanding would be additive to the league as a whole. Clearly coming to Mexico City, not just because of the huge population here in Mexico but in essence as a gateway to the rest of Latin America, could potentially be very important to the league.”
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was down with a franchise in Mexico City, as he told ESPN.
“I would love a team down here. I think it would really help the sport,” Cuban said. “I would like to come back with the Mavericks, and every time that the NBA asks, we would love to be here.”
There have been issues with arenas in Mexico City in the past, but a new state-of-the-art Arena Ciudad de Mexico should change that.
We’re a long way off from a team in Mexico City. First, expansion does not appear on the horizon for the NBA (sorry Seattle), and no teams are close to moving. If a team does eventually relocate or the NBA expands, a host of domestic cities will be in line.
However, this could happen down the line. The NBA realizes it is the premiere basketball league in the world and it wants to grow that brand and rake in money from other countries. Think of it this way: Soccer fans in the USA will watch MLS games and have teams they love, but they also all have their favorite English Premier League team such as Chelsea or Machester United (or, in my case, a Championship level team in Newcastle that will be back up in the big show next season). Those leagues know they can make money off the fans here, the NBA is going to do the same.
Expect an All-Star Game before a team, but even that is going to be into the next decade (maybe well into it) before it becomes a reality.