As a part of the NBA’s efforts to increase its presence in other countries, Adam Silver held a press conference this week in Mexico City before the Orlando Magic vs Chicago Bulls, and the Magic once again against the Utah Jazz. The two games mark the 27th and 28th games the NBA has played in Mexico City Since 1992–the most games that have been played outside the United States and Canada.
The home team in both contests are the Orlando Magic who graciously gave up two home games in order to participate in the international event.
Since Silver took over the NBA’s Commissioner position in 2014, he’s been working diligently to expand the NBA globally, and has successfully grown the league’s international brand with plans to increase the popularity of the sport of basketball all across the world.
Silver noted that the Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City is state of the art, and said that once the game starts it’s hard to tell you’re not at any regular NBA game in the United States.
Silver went on to discuss the success of the NBA Academy that is now operational in Mexico. The goal of the academy is to allow players to not only develop their skills, but also compete against top level talent in Mexico and also worldwide with the objective of developing future Mexican NBA players as they train with and compete against the best players around the world. Silver described that the NBA scouts who see young talent in Mexico say that they are no different than the talent they see anywhere in the world, but because they’re not exposed to top notch competition, their skills don’t develop to the point where they can make an NBA team so the league’s goal is to change that.
The NBA employs a local staff in Mexico City who have been diligently working with the government to expand the NBA’s presence. The talks have been met with open arms, and Silver noted that they’re working on laying the ground work for expansion.
When asked where the league is at with starting a G-League team in Mexico City, Silver said they’re in the “third-quarter” with a smile. He boasted of the NBA’s investment in bringing games into Mexico, and described that the NBA Academy is purely an investment with no expectation that there will be a return. He says the academy will teach positive skills about working hard, achieving goals, and how to live a healthy lifestyle which shows that the NBA is committed to not only the development of the league in Mexico, but to the investment they’re making into the community.
One Mexican reporter asked if the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James would be making a trip to play in Mexico City any time soon, and while Silver was non-committal in his answer, he noted that Jeanie Buss and the Lakers are the first to raise their hands and offer their help in expanding the league so he suspects they would be very open to making the trip play for the fans living in Mexico City.
In closing, Silver noted that since the league has a team in Canada, it only makes sense that they would turn South to their neighbors in Mexico to make their next expansion. He went on to note the large population of Mexican-Americans in the United States and said that the people of the US would relate closely to players in Mexico for that reason.
As the NBA works to expand internationally, I have to reflect on what a cutting edge professional sports organization they’ve become. No other professional sports league in the US is as proactively engaged in international expansion.
In the coming years we may be able to expect to have the opportunity to travel internationally to watch our favorite teams take on other nations under the umbrella of the NBA. What an exciting thought.