Will Mexico City boast next NBA franchise?


NBA considers expansion to Mexico Image: NBA

Expansion has been a backburner issue for the National Basketball Association (NBA) (US) for quite some time. The league hasn’t added a new team since the Charlotte Bobcats, now the Charlotte Hornets, was born in 2004. Since then, the league has focused on maximizing its existing markets, but with revenue hitting all-time highs and the league bursting with enough talent to support more franchises, the idea has been discussed more frequently over the last several years.

‘cbssports.com’ stated that while Las Vegas and Seattle are frequently considered the next two Cities in line for teams, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed another possibility recently before the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs played recently in Mexico City, Mexico, which the Miami Heat pounced late to beat the San Antonio Spurs 111-101.

New York (US)-based the National Basketball Association (NBA) is a professional basketball league in North America. The league is composed of 30 teams and is one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. It is the premier men’s professional basketball league in the world.

Silver told newsmen while acknowledging that the league is currently focused on negotiating new media rights deals as well as a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) – “There’s no doubt we will be looking seriously at Mexico City over time.”

Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation between employers and a group of employees aimed at agreements to regulate working salaries, working conditions, benefits, and other aspects of workers’ compensation and rights for workers.

He cited some of the logistical concerns that have arisen with NBA teams in Canada as a possible roadblock, but said that Mexico City is “doing all the things necessary to demonstrate to the league that ultimately we may be position to house an NBA team here”.

He cited the City’s population, the existence of a state-of-the-art facility and existing fan support as reasons why such a team would make sense while also claiming that he believes it is the NBA’s “manifest destiny” to continue growing outside of the United States.

On paper, Mexico City offers quite a bit to the NBA as a possible expansion market. Its most notable trait is its enormous population. Recent estimates suggest there are roughly nine million people in Mexico City, which would make it the most populous City in not only the NBA, but all of North American professional sports. The nation of Mexico as a whole is roughly 130 million, and the NBA would surely hope that a team in Mexico City could represent the entire country as the Raptors do for Canada. As the NBA continues to focus on growing the game internationally, it would likely love the opportunity to give 130 possible fans a team to root for.

The Mexico City Arena meets pretty much every criterion for an NBA building. It was opened in 2012, making it relatively new, and seats 22,300 fans. Without another team as a tenant, it would not come with the same scheduling difficulties that many other NBA arenas face, as basketball teams frequently share buildings with franchises in the National Hockey League (NHL).

But for every positive, there is a major question mark. The biggest immediate question would be how players would adjust to the City’s elevation. Mexico City is 7,349 feet above the sea level. That’s more than 2,000 feet higher than Denver, the NBA team (Denver Nuggets) currently at the highest altitude. Playing at higher altitudes requires better conditioning, and teams like the Nuggets and Utah Jazz, which do so regularly, have always had strong home-court advantages because of it. While the NBA has played plenty of games in Mexico City, it has never left a team there for an extended period of time and studied the effects, either in terms of team performance or the physical health of the players involved.

‘cbssports.com’ further stated that there is also the matter of player preference. Technically, players have no say over expansion. League bylaws give owners the freedom to expand at their discretion, and expansion fees are not considered basketball-related income and are therefore not shared with the players. However, the NBA has an extremely productive relationship with its players and would be unlikely to force a market on them without hearing any concerns they might have about it.

When the NBA expanded to Canada in the 1990s, there were players who did not want to cross the border to join one of the new franchises. Notably, Steve Francis, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, demanded a trade from the Vancouver Grizzlies before ever playing a game for them.

Stated Francis then, “I damn near cried when I got taken by the Grizzlies at No. 2. I was not about to go up to freezing-ass Canada, so far away from my family, when they were about to move the franchise anyway.”

Some players might not want to live in another country. Others might not want to deal with the hassle of going through customs every time the team travels. Before the league considers expansion into Mexico, it has to try to figure out how interested players would be in living there.

In the end, Toronto (Canada) proved to be a viable NBA market. The Toronto Raptors are thriving there to this day. Perhaps the league views them as a model to be emulated elsewhere. While expansion isn’t imminent, it is ultimately, in all likelihood, inevitable. There is too much money to be made from adding new teams, and when that time comes, it seems as though international expansion will very much be on the table.

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