Las Vegas and New Mexico are prime locations for NBA expansion
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Las Vegas and Mexico City are prime locations for NBA expansion

Adam Silver

We are living in a time when a big shift in American sports scene may actually be happening before our very eyes. The NFL – polarized by protests, political activism and business interests – is having a terrible year. To top it off, injuries have been plaguing all of the major teams which at the end of the day means less field action. And that equates to less interest in the end product. Meanwhile the NHL and the MLB can’t seem to gain a significant advantage from the situation. Both of the leagues find it very hard to attract foreign public (Canada excluded) and are unable to reintroduce the sports as less American and more international.

At the same time the NBA is doing nothing less than great. The association has managed to remain relevant by ensuring that its product stays top notch and most importantly – international. You can pretty much change the “National” to “Worldwide”. Never before did the league have so many good players from overseas – Greece, Latvia, Serbia, France, Croatia, Canada. Ten years ago it would have been considered way too unrealistic but today it’s a fact. Basketball has more professional leagues around the World than any sport.

However, in order to push for that top spot the NBA has to make a decision. And it’s a far bigger one than changing the All-Star game format or tweaking the regular season to counter back-to-backs. Should the organization expand with new teams? Commissioner Adam Silver knows this decision would be vital for the future of the organization. So far, he hasn’t been too vocal but when he sat down with CJ McCollum “the boss” did share some of his thoughts. And by the looks of it he likes the idea.

And who can blame Mr. Silver? At the end of the day he is a businessman and he is attracted to money. And all he has to do is take a look at Las Vegas and Mexico City. Why those two in particular?

@bizutesfaye

When you think of Las Vegas you immediately imagine money and gambling. But if you are following major American sports you might as well know Vegas as a city which is actively trying to lure in teams. And it’s quite good at it. From a state with no big league representatives Nevada now has the Golden Knights ( NHL expansion team ) and will be welcoming the Raiders (NFL 2019-20 relocation ). Who knows if the Diamondbacks or Rockies are safe from relocating too?

At this point it wouldn’t be surprising if Vegas places a bid for a NBA expansion team. The city is already a top tourist destination, a huge market boosted by the gambling business and is hosting two major leagues. If money is the top priority how can the NBA say no to such a lucrative opportunity to expand.

People say that good things come in pairs. So why not go for two new teams instead of one. Just like 1995. All it takes is a four-hour flight to the south and land in Mexico City. The capital of Mexico has the highest population in the western hemisphere with its metropolitan area included. The number – 21.2 million people! More than Los Angeles and Chicago combined!

As you may know, in recent years the question of how big of a market a city can be is constantly brought up when analysts discuss certain players’ future. This phenomenon is partly based on the fact that business has soaked deep into the NBA. Now cities like New Orleans, Charlotte, Milwaukee and even Toronto are deemed “small markets”. So if you want major income you must go big. Mexico City big!

nba las vegas

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Unfortunately, when the NBA has to make the decision of expanding the factor money must not distort reality. And that is probably the reason why Adam Silver is so reluctant to speak openly on the subject. Because at the end of the day an expansion team is just like a player coming straight out of the draft. He could be a star, average or a straight bust. And the NBA doesn’t have good history with new teams. Take a look at the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Charlotte Bobcats. Not only they no longer exist but they were so bad that they had to be put out of their misery. Almost the same thing would have happened to the Raptors and Pelicans if they hadn’t drafted Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis.

In the NBA if you are a weak team history and fans pretty much save you from packing and relocating. Today’s league has at least four or five old teams that “rebuild” or in other words – they will lose until they refill with talent. Which can go for four years or so. Take a look at Philadelphia and the Sixers. With Andre Iguodala dealt in 2012 the so-called “Process” began that may probably end sometime in 2018. Those were long six years through which fans went to Wells Fargo Center just to cheer for a team rebuilding but losing. Now imagine that happening to a brand new team with no history and no fan base. An expansion team must hit the ground running or it will be just another tanking organization. And the NBA has plenty of those. Led by the infamous Phoenix Suns. So you can guess that the overly annoyed public wouldn’t even bother paying to watch more court struggle.

Thankfully, decision time is not yet upon the NBA; but big money can’t be slept on. Especially when a team like the Brooklyn Nets was evaluated to be a two+ billion dollar franchise. So one can imagine what an organization in Mexico would go for. Just think about the price of an add on prime time in Mexico City. Or the flashiness of the champs landing in Las Vegas for a game. It sounds great! However, commissioner Silver must not forget how broken the main source of talent for the league is. Yes, we are talking about the NCAA; from Rick Pitino’s case to relations with colleges – it’s a mess! And that mess plus an expansion draft will create a 0.350 team or better? There’s certainly far too much uncertainty.