Next Move for NBA Going Global Starts in Mexico?
On January 12 and 14, the NBA hosted two regular season contests at the Arena Cuidad de Mexico. The Phoenix Suns took on the Dallas Mavericks and two days later beat the San Antonio Spurs on the back of a great performance from sophomore Devin Booker. These two games marked the fourth and fifth time an NBA regular season game was played in Mexico, which begs the question – is an NBA franchise in Mexico on the horizon?
“I think it’s great that the NBA has grown this much to be able to be here in Mexico City,” Said Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes during shootaround on January 11. “To see the excitement that’s here, it’s great to be a part of it.”
It is no secret that the NBA is making an effort to turn it’s brand of basketball into a global game. For the NBA, Mexico represents one of its top foreign markets.
“We are seeing increases, ” Said Raul Zarraga, the NBA Mexico’s managing director. “It’s impressive how we are growing year after year. We closed the last year with double digit increase in [streaming] subscriptions. We are 1% or 2% higher this season.”
Zarraga would go on to tell Forbes.com that there are over 500,000 NBA fans in Mexico who watch streamed NBA games online. There has also been approximately four million viewer from Mexico who have watched the 2016 NBA finals. As Mexico is becoming Latin America’s largest Spanish-speaking economy and a growing market for e-commerce, the NBA is beginning to realize how valuable Mexico’s online market truly is.
Zarraga also believes that it is time for Mexico to begin developing their own talent, claiming that the league needs “to work more closely with local authorities to see how we can grow the basketball professionally to find new players that in the future can play in the NBA.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke to the media on the 25th anniversary of the first regular season game held in Mexico, telling the NBA Mexican fanbase that the league is exploring adding a new franchise as well as a developmental team in Monterrey, Mexico.
“In terms of a franchise in Mexico City, it’s something that we’re going to look at,” Silver said. “This is a competitive market, well over 20 million people. While we have no immediate plans to expand the NBA, one of the things that we look at is whether expanding would be additive to the league as a whole. Clearly coming to Mexico City just because of the huge population here in Mexico but in essence as a gateway to the rest of Latin America could potentially be very important to the league. You clearly have a beautiful state-of-the-art arena here, and you can tell by ticket sales that we have the interest. So that’s something that we will continue to look at.”
Attendance during Saturday’s tilt between the Suns and Spurs was a 20,532-person sellout, the largest crowd to ever attend an NBA game in Mexico to date.
“I think the next step before we start talking about a franchise in Mexico City is to bring more games here, ” Said Silver. “Of course we’ve had these two regular-season games, and whether we bring additional regular-season games in the next season or do some sort of tournament where you bring over a group of teams and they all play each other in some format — that’s something that we’re looking at.”
Although there is nothing certain at this point in terms of an NBA franchise coming to Mexico, the success of recent NBA games in Mexico from a viewership and financial standpoint suggests that it only makes sense that the league continues to look at Mexico as a very viable NBA market.