In 1976, the NBA established itself as the premier destination for professional basketball players and fans when it absorbed four of the six teams that made up the American Basketball Association (ABA), which was officially dissolved after its former competitor added the Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, and Spurs into the fold to increase its number of overall franchises to 22.
The NBA would continue to expand in the 1980s when it welcomed five new teams. It could have theoretically rebranded as the “International Basketball League” after the semi-successful experiment that saw it head north of the border to set up shop in Toronto and Vancouver in the 1990s, and in 2004, the membership total hit a nice, round number when the Charlotte Bobcats became its 30th squad.
It’s been close to 20 years since the NBA welcomed its most recent expansion team—much to the chagrin of fans in Seattle who still haven’t gotten over the loss of the Supersonics after the franchise now known as the Thunder relocated to Oklahoma City in 2009.
However, those folks got some good news earlier this year when a rumor spread that suggested it might only be a matter of time until the NBA announces its decision to expand yet again by not only returning to Seattle but becoming the latest member of America’s Big Four sports leagues to stake a claim in Las Vegas (the second of which LeBron James may or may not be involved with).
With that said, Adam Silver attempted to downplay that speculation when he said there were no active conversations concerning expansion prior to the NBA Finals last season. However, he did admit it’s only a matter of time until the league gets bigger—and his righthand man has some intriguing insight into where it could be headed next.
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum says Mexico City could be a candidate for an expansion team
Earlier this week, the G League team officially known as “Capitanes de Ciudad de México” (a.k.a. the Mexico City Captains) walked away with a win over the Rio Grande Vipers in their inaugural home game at Mexico City Arena.
The NBA is no stranger to Mexico; heading into the season, it had already sent teams south of the border for 30 games—including a contest between the Mavericks and the Pistons that spawned an incredible moment where Luka Doncic showed off his impressive Spanish-speaking skills at the expense of a wildly less proficient Blake Griffin.
It seems like there’s a chance those contests could be a much more regular occurrence based on what deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said about the prospect of expanding to Mexico City during a conversation with Andscape:
“If we were to turn to expansion, there’s no doubt that Mexico City would have to be one the cities that would be in consideration along with a host of other very big and relevant cities in North America.
One of the biggest challenges around international expansion has always been the travel issues, the facility issues. But there is a world-class facility in Mexico City in Arena CDMX…And the travel is not an issue. It’s a pretty short flight for several of our teams, particularly our Texas teams, our Florida teams, our New Orleans team. Arizona actually is a pretty short flight.
So, those are all the kinds of things that we would take into consideration, and for those reasons you’d have to consider it. But again, I’d say it’s not immediately on the docket right now.”
Based on what Silver had to say earlier this year, it seems like any concrete decisions about expansion won’t be made until 2024, but this is undoubtedly an interesting situation to keep an eye on.