By almost everyone’s account, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has done a fantastic job in his short time running the NBA. He is one of the more progressive commissioners and loved by fans, coaches, owners and players alike. That’s why it’s no surprise to see Silver flirting with the idea of a G-League team in Mexico City.
The goal would be to gauge interest on whether or not a NBA team could work there full time.
Silver also mentioned, at a press conference before the Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder faced off in a regular season game in Mexico City, that the league will be opening a NBA Academy in Mexico City.
Both plans demonstrate the importance of the Mexico City market to the league’s desire to further grow in Latin America. The Nets’ games against the Thunder and Miami Heat this week are during the 25th anniversary of the NBA’s first games in Mexico.
Silver says a G League team would essentially be a 31st team in the league, with the NBA hoping to soon have all 30 of its clubs owning and operating their own minor league affiliate. He says a Mexico City team would be operated in partnership with the league office.
No plans are definite, and he said other Mexican cities could also be considered if the G League team does move south of the border.
“We have a preference for coming to Mexico City,” Silver said, “because as we look down the road, frankly to see whether there would be an opportunity to even dream about putting an NBA franchise here in Mexico City, we believe it makes sense as a first step to have a development league team here and to work out some of the issues to better understand what it would mean to have a team in Mexico.”
The NBA Academy Latin America will be a training center for top male and female prospects from Latin America. Scheduled to open this winter, it will be the NBA’s seventh training center.
Per the Miami Herald, Silver also mentioned:
“We’re just beginning to look at what the cost would be for putting a G League team here in Mexico City,” Silver said. “Right now, the teams are almost exclusively owned by NBA clubs. There are a few independent owners, but there is not, in essence, a market for G League teams. They don’t sell independent of NBA franchises. It would be something that would be worked out with a partner here, and we’d determine, ultimately, what the value of that team is and the cost structure for operating in Mexico City.
“In brief, the attraction of the Mexico City market, as I said, is it’s the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, over 20 million people. It’s part of a 130-million-person country. There is a very strong and passionate Mexican-American fan base back in the United States, and this is also potentially a gateway for all of Latin America. So there are many reasons why this is an attractive market for us.”
Two days after this announcement, the NBA made another announcement that the G-League All Stars would play against the Mexican national team at the NBA G League International Challenge at the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
Silver has led many progressive movements while running the NBA. He was a big proponent of the league adding sponsorships to jerseys, which began this season. This has been a long-running practice of European soccer and basketball leagues.
He was also instrumental in negotiating the league’s current nine year, $24 billion TV deal with ESPN and Turner, allowing the salary cap to bloom to over $100 million.
Silver also has recently spoken at length about legalizing sports betting in our country, citing the need to regulate it. He even wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times on the subject.
“There is an obvious appetite among sports fans for a safe and legal way to wager on professional sporting events,” Silver wrote. “Mainstream media outlets regularly publish sports betting lines and point spreads. Voters in New Jersey overwhelmingly voiced their support for legal sports betting in a 2011 referendum.”
“Congress should adopt a federal framework that allows states to authorize betting on professional sports, subject to strict regulatory requirements and technological safeguards.”
Add it all up, and you can actually envision Silver bringing a team to Mexico City sooner rather than later.
At least a couple of people from Miami Heat‘s organization believe a NBA team in Mexico City would be a good idea. Again from the Miami Herald article:
“It would be a lot of fun,” Heat center Kelly Olynyk said. “I think it would do really well. I think the fans would really embrace it. I think the players would love it. It’s just a matter of trying to get it. I don’t know how easy or hard it would be.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who has coached at those academies in the past in South Africa and the Philippines, said the NBA is taking the right steps in Mexico.
“The first thing you need is some awareness, so us being down here with games that continued to be played down here help,” Spoelstra said. “[With its academies] the NBA does such a phenomenal job of setting up a foundation of skill development, of teaching the game, not skipping steps, not just making it about playing as many games as you can but it’s more about emphasis on fundamentals, of practices, the importance of learning how to play together, to learn the habit of team work, all of these things.
“I think the NBA does a tremendous job and that’s why I’ve been involved with the grass roots part of building the game, particularly at the youth level, the academy levels around the world because I have such a great respect of how the NBA has done it.”
Adam Silver will stop at nothing to improve the league. Part of that improvement includes expanding the game globally to markets that make sense. Given the travel would not be that drastic, and the fact that the NBA already has a team in Toronto, Mexico City makes a whole lot of sense.