Basketball is truly a global game.
With its minimal entry point for recreational players (ball, flat surface, hoop) and professional leagues around the world, a reasonable argument can be made that it trails only soccer in worldwide popularity for team sports.
Its growing presence in Europe has surfaced discussions of NBA expansion across the Atlantic. Commissioner Adam Silver shut those talks down with a blunt assessment he shared with the New York Times Friday.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver is realistic about the NFL's advantages in terms of European expansion, conceding that "they have an opportunity potentially in Europe that we may not in the short term." More Silver: pic.twitter.com/VoSSHWGVjW
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 15, 2017
It’s nice to hear some common sense from the NBA’s top executive. Greed often trumps what’s good for the game and the athletes in these kinds of discussions (see NFL games in Europe, Thursday Night Football), and the idea of placing an NBA team five time zones away from its nearest competitor is patently absurd, no matter how tempting the financial opportunity.
But Mexico City? That’s an entirely different beast. Sure it’s a haul from most NBA cities. But it’s no longer than a cross-country flight for most teams. And, more importantly, it lies in the Central time zone.
It’s a prospect the New York Times explored, and the reasons are plenty to consider expansion with our southern neighbors. With a population of more than 20 million, Mexico City is one of the largest markets in the world and the most populous North American city. With the large Mexican immigrant population in the U.S., there’s already potential for a built-in fan base at home. And, Mexicans seem excited about the prospect.
The Brooklyn Nets played a pair of games last week in Mexico City against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat and drew crowds of 20,562 and 19,777. That’s a good turnout to watch some sorry basketball.
While NBA expansion is not on the immediate horizon, it appears inevitable, and the wheels are already in motion to put a G League team in Mexico City.
When expansion does arrive, Seattle looks poised to be first in line. Don’t be surprised to see Mexico City as a serious contender for a second expansion franchise.
It makes a lot more sense that Europe.