The National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of the biggest sports brands in the world, with a global fan base and revenues reaching billions of dollars a year. A recent report estimated that the 30 teams that make up the league generated combined revenues of $10 billion U.S. dollars in the 2021/22 season alone.
However, in the face of competition from the NFL, soccer, MLB, and other sports, the league is eager to expand its reach internationally and is actively looking to enter new markets, including Mexico, which has emerged as a prime target for the sport.
NBA Mexico Expansion Plans
Mexico City is home to around 9 million people, although the surrounding metropolitan area is estimated to house over 22 million in total. No surprise therefore that the largest city in North America remains part of the NBA’s expansion plans.
- Basketball is the second most played sport in the country.
- The average viewership of NBA games is up 70% this season.
- Mexico ranks No. 4 globally in sales on the NBA’s website.
- Mexico is in the top-five NBA League Pass subscriptions market outside the US
- An estimated 30 million fans follow the NBA in Mexico.
- Betting on NBA lines has increased year-on-year as fan engagement increases.
In 2019, the NBA announced that it would be opening an office in Mexico City, with the goal of further promoting basketball and growing the sport’s popularity within the country. This move is part of the NBA’s broader strategy to expand its presence in Latin America. Other initiatives include:
Grassroots basketball development:
The Jr. NBA, NBA Basketball School, Basketball Without Borders and NBA Academy Latin America are all aimed at creating more opportunities for boys and girls to play the sport.
NBA Fan Experience:
The league aims to bring the NBA experience to Mexico through interactive fan events and live games, plus the use of social media and aggressive marketing, while an official NBA store has opened in the capital selling authentic merchandise.
International games provide fans with a real-life NBA experience, and of the 117 international games ever played, no country has hosted more than Mexico with 31. The first NBA game in Mexico was way back in 1992, with the Houston Rockets defeating the Dallas Mavericks in a preseason match. The last game was in December 2022 when the NBA returned for the first time since 2019, with the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat playing in the NBA Mexico City Global Games.
Creation of a G League Team
In 2021, a G League team in Mexico was created, with the aim of developing local talent and to further promoting the sport in the country. Mexico City Capitanes now play their home games at Arena CDMX and three of their players – Gary Clark, Alfonzo McKinnie, and Matt Mooney – have subsequently been called up to the NBA.
Will Mexico City host its own NBA team?
The NBA is keen to open a pathway for Mexico City to eventually have its own NBA team in the near future. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently said that Mexico City is “doing all the things necessary to demonstrate to the league that ultimately, we may be in a position to house an NBA team here… it makes sense to me that we would expand to the south, as well.”
Establishing a strong base within Mexico is crucial for the NBA, as it would provide the league with access to a large and growing market in South America and beyond, further enhancing its appeal to sponsors, broadcasters, and fans worldwide.
While Mexico makes a great case for joining the NBA, there are other candidates in the running. The league has been talking about bringing a team back to Seattle since the Sonics left for Oklahoma in 2008. The city has grown considerably since then and has a proven fan base.
Las Vegas is also in the running with the city already housing the Raiders NFL team, a basketball franchise makes a lot of sense. L.A. Lakers superstar LeBron James, recently appealed to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, when he said that he “would love” to bring a team to Vegas.
There’s no doubt that any international expansion faces far bigger hurdles than any potential site in Canada or the U.S. – unless LeBron is on your side – so, a Mexico City team may not be about to happen any time soon. But there’s no denying that the NBA’s potential expansion south of the border presents an exciting and lucrative opportunity for the league to grow its brand internationally and bring the NBA to Spanish-speaking markets across the globe. Whatever happens, the future looks bright for basketball in Mexico, and the NBA’s presence in the country is set to grow in the coming years.