NBA would consider Mexico City for expansion franchise

NBA would consider Mexico City for expansion franchise originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The G League has arrived in Mexico City. Will the NBA soon follow?

Expansion has been a popular topic around the NBA with Seattle and Las Vegas seen as front runners to potentially land new franchises. NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said the league isn’t looking to move beyond 30 teams just yet, but he believes Mexico City will be in contention should the league consider expanding.

“Expansion is currently not on the docket, but at some point, 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,” Tatum told Andscape

The Mexico City Captains (Capitanes de Ciudad de Mexico) joined the G League in 2021 but only played “home” games at away venues last season. They finally played a G League contest in Mexico on Sunday with a 120-84 win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers at Arena CDMX. They followed that up with a loss to the Memphis Hustle at home on Monday as they continued a six-game homestand to start the 2022-23 season.

The NBA has been to Mexico City and Arena CDMX before, holding 30 combined regular season and preseason games in Mexico. The San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat will make a trip there for a Dec. 17 game as the NBA returns to Mexico City for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the biggest challenges around international expansion has always been the travel issues, the facility issues,” Tatum said. “But there is a world-class facility in Mexico City in Arena CDMX … And so that’s not an issue.”

As Andscape’s Marc J. Spears noted, safety is among the league’s biggest concerns with having a G League team in Mexico City. The U.S. Department of State says tourists should “exercise increased caution due to crime” in the city.

Jahlil Okafor, a former NBA lottery selection by the Philadelphia 76ers who now plays center for the Captains, said he feels safe in Polanco, the area of the city where he and his teammates live.

“Mexico life has been great,” Okafor said. “I’m here with my fiancée. We go to a lot of restaurants and I’m working on my craft trying to get better. I feel extremely safe. I haven’t had any worries. I’m in Polanco, which is one of the best neighborhoods. So, I definitely feel safe.”

Okafor and the Captains will be back at Arena CDMX on Thursday to take on the Hustle.