MEXICO CITY — On the eve of the NBA’s 32nd game in Mexico City since 1992, league commissioner Adam Silver assured media and fans on Thursday that the contest between the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks would not be the swan song for contests played in the Mexican capital.
“The chances are very high that we will be back next year,” Silver said about the potential of Mexico seeing more NBA games. “I don’t know yet whether it will be one or two games. I think, frankly, our schedule has gotten so complicated because we’re trying to avoid as many as four games out of five nights as we can. We try to avoid as many back-to-backs as we can.”
Silver joked that he created a “scheduling nightmare” for his colleagues in the league office with the addition of the NBA in-season tournament, which debuted earlier this month. The inaugural version of this competition, partly modeled on European soccer cup competitions, will conclude with the semifinals and finals played in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 and 9.
The league will also stage an international regular-season game in Paris between the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 11. It is the NBA’s second consecutive season staging a game in France.
Silver noted that despite the added scheduling difficulty, the league’s commitment to having more games in Mexico remains strong.
“Having said all that, definitely we’ll be back,” Silver said. “I moved up from highly likely to definitely. We will be back next year with at least one game, and we’ll see whether it’s two games.”
Hawks star Trae Young, who led Atlanta to a 120-119 win with 41 points and 8 assists, said he enjoyed the experience.
“I loved the energy in the arena tonight,” Young said. “The electricity was amazing. It was fun playing here. I know, obviously, the league’s going to expand to a couple of more cities. I would be open to playing here once or twice a year. As far as the fans go, you can tell they really love basketball here. I wouldn’t mind playing here.”
No other country outside the United States and Canada has hosted as many NBA games as Mexico. The league’s first regular-season contest in Latin America dates to Dec. 7, 1997, when the Houston Rockets beat the Dallas Mavericks 108-106 at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City. Since then, an additional 12 games have been played at the venue, including Thursday night’s contest.
Silver also expressed the league’s desire to expand its footprint in Mexico and Latin America. Mexico City is home to the G League’s Capitanes de Ciudad de Mexico, the first NBA-affiliated team based in Latin America. Though the commissioner was coy on specifics, he once again mentioned the league’s interest to have an NBA franchise based in Mexico.
“We see this as a gateway, essentially, to the rest of Latin America,” Silver said. “We think, whether it be additional G League franchises in Mexico City and ultimately a larger footprint here in Latin America or ultimately the dream of an NBA franchise coming to Mexico City one day.”
The commissioner expressed that the initial idea of an NBA franchise playing in Mexico dates “many years ago” to the late David Stern, his former boss.
“It was dope. It was so dope,” Magic guard Jalen Suggs said. “What a blessing this was. Playing an NBA game in a different country, different fans, different environment. They’ve embraced us the whole time we’ve been here.”
Twenty-three NBA teams have played at least once in Mexico City over the past 31 years. While the Magic played their third game since 2018, it was the Hawks’ first contest in Mexico and first regular-season competition outside the United States and Canada.
“It’s exciting for them to be in a different venue,” Silver said. “The teams got here on Tuesday. They’ve had the opportunity to spend some time in the city the last few days, do some cultural things, be part of a clinic for kids and of course practice and get ready for the game.”