MEXICO CITY >> The National Basketball Association intends to put an NBA G League franchise in the Mexican capital, according to three people familiar with the league’s plans.
A team in the G League, NBA’s official minor league, which would be owned and operated locally, could begin play as early as next season, according to the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the subject publicly.
Establishing a G League franchise on Mexican soil would be the latest serious step by the NBA to gain a foothold in Mexico and gauge the viability of putting an NBA team in the largest market in Latin America.
While stressing that his league is not actively pursuing expansion or relocation for any of its 30 current franchises, Commissioner Adam Silver has described Mexico City as a natural contender for an eventual NBA team on numerous occasions this year.
The Brooklyn Nets are playing two “home” games at the Mexico City Arena this week: tonight against Oklahoma City and Saturday night against Miami. Those games are the centerpiece of the NBA’s 25th anniversary celebration of its first exhibition game in Mexico in 1992 and the 20th anniversary of its first regular-season game here (Dec. 6, 1987).
The NBA G League is scheduled to have franchises owned or directly affiliated with 27 NBA teams next season as it continues to work toward its long-stated “30 for 30” goal, which calls for every NBA franchise to have a direct affiliate in the developmental league.
The Mexico City franchise is likely to begin operations before the G League reaches 30 NBA-owned franchises, but, according to the people, it would be owned and operated separate from the NBA.
ESPN reported last month that the NBA will also soon announce a basketball development and training academy in Mexico City, which would be its seventh such academy globally. The NBA Academies project is designed to provide teenagers worldwide with top-level coaching, facilities and competition and has already spawned training centers in China (three), Australia, India and Senegal.