League wants more NBA-ready arenas in Latin America, Adam Silver says

MEXICO CITY — NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday he wants more games to be played in Latin America.

Speaking before the Orlando Magic faced the Chicago Bulls at the 22,300-seat Arena Ciudad de Mexico, Silver was complimentary of the building, and said he hoped other, similar venues would pop up in other parts of the Americas.

“As you can see, this is a state-of-the-art arena,” Silver said, adding that games in Mexico City feel like “a regular NBA game” held in the United States or Canada.

The Bulls are one of Mexico’s most popular NBA teams, surpassed only by the Los Angeles Lakers, according to a July 2018 study commissioned by the league. During pregame introductions Thursday, the crowd responded with a loud ovation when guard Justin Holiday took the microphone to thank spectators for attending.

The arena, which opened in 2013, was a big factor in the NBA returning to play regular-season games in Mexico for the first time since 1997.

“These will be our 27th and 28th games in Mexico,” Silver said.

Outside of Mexico, the NBA has never held a regular-season game in Latin America. Silver said venues similar to Arena Ciudad de Mexico would have to be completed elsewhere in order to provide fans with an experience consistent with the league’s ideals.

Despite an earlier announcement Thursday regarding a new TV contract with Televisa, no mention was made about holding games in Mexico City beyond this season. However, Silver was optimistic about the possibility.

“We’re committed to come back to Mexico for many years to come,” he said, noting talks between league and the city’s government have been “very positive.”

Silver touted the league’s growth in popularity in Mexico, saying basketball was “No. 2 after soccer” in a country that has hosted NFL and MLB games recently.

“There were long lines of fans just waiting to get in [to the Bulls-Magic game],” Silver said.

Plans to have a G League franchise in Mexico as early as next season are still in the works.

“We’re in the third quarter there,” said Silver, adding that he wants a team “planting its flag in Mexico” very soon.

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