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Expansion has been a staple of the NBA for quite some time now. The league hasn’t added a new team since the Charlotte Bobcats, now the Hornets, were born in 2004. Since then, the league has focused on maximizing its existing markets, but revenue has reached an all-time high and the league is bursting with talent. the idea of ​​supporting more franchisees has been discussed more frequently in the past few years. While Las Vegas and Seattle are often considered the teams’ next two cities, NBA commissioner Adam Silver touched on another possibility Saturday before the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs play in Mexico City.

“There’s no doubt that in time we will look seriously at Mexico City,” Silver told reporters while acknowledging that the league is currently focused on negotiating new media rights deals as well as collective bargaining agreements. He cited some logistical concerns with NBA teams in Canada as a potential obstacle, but said Mexico City is “doing all the things necessary to show the league that eventually we can put an NBA team here. He cited the city’s population, availability of state-of-the-art facilities and fan support as reasons why such a team makes sense, while insisting he believes it is the NBA’s “manifest destiny” to continue to expand outward. The United States.

On paper, Mexico City offers quite a bit to the NBA as a potential expansion market. Its most notable feature is its huge population. Recent estimates put Mexico City at roughly nine million people, which would make it the most populous city not only for the NBA, but for all of North American professional sports. The nation of Mexico is roughly 130 million in total, and the NBA will no doubt be hoping that Mexico City’s team can represent the entire country, as the Raptors do for Canada. As the NBA continues to focus on growing the game internationally, it would likely want to give a team of 130 possible fans a chance to root for.

The Mexico City Arena meets almost every standard for an NBA building. It opened in 2012, making it relatively new, and seats 22,300 fans. Without another team as a tenant, it would not have the same scheduling difficulties that many other NBA arenas face, as basketball teams often share buildings with NHL franchises.

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

There is also the issue of player preference. Technically, players have no say in the expansion. League bylaws give owners the freedom to expand at their discretion, and expansion fees are not considered basketball-related revenue and therefore are not shared with players. However, the NBA has an extremely effective relationship with its players and is unlikely to force them into the market without listening to any concerns they may have about it.

When the NBA expanded into Canada in the 1990s, there were players reluctant to cross the border to join one of the new franchises. Notably, Steve Francis, the No. 2 pick in the 1999 NBA draft, demanded a trade from the Vancouver Grizzlies before ever playing a game for them. “I came very close to tears when I was picked by the Grizzlies at No. 2,” Francis later wrote in The Player’s Tribune. “I wasn’t going to go up to frigid Canada, so far away from my family, when they were going to move the franchise anyway.” Some players may not want to live in another country. Others may not want to go through the hassle of going through customs every time the team travels. Before the league considers expanding to Mexico, it must try to determine how interested the players would be in living there.

After all, Toronto has proven to be a viable NBA market. The Raptors thrive there to this day. Perhaps the league views them as a model to be emulated elsewhere. While expansion isn’t imminent, it’s ultimately likely inevitable. There’s too much money to be made from adding new teams, and when that time comes, it looks like international expansion will be very much on the table.


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