The games, between three teams in states neighboring Mexico, will mark the first time the NBA has played more than one contest during the same season in the neighboring country since the league began playing there 25 years ago. The Mavericks faced the Houston Rockets in the first game ever played in Mexico City during the 1992 preseason, and 2016-17 will mark the third straight campaign in which the league will hold a regular-season game in the world’s 12th largest metropolitan area.
“We’ve been playing NBA games in Mexico for 25 years,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a press release Wednesday, “and we’re thrilled that for the first time we are bringing to regular-season games to Mexico City, featuring three teams with an exciting mix of veteran talent and emerging stars.”
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This past season’s game in Mexico between the Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics did not come without controversy, as then-Kings point guard Rajon Rondo lost his cool with referee Bill Kennedy and was ejected from the game against his former team in the third quarter. The confrontation ultimately earned Rondo a suspension from the NBA for allegedly aiming a homophobic slur at Kennedy, who publicly revealed he was gay in the aftermath. Not the best foreign diplomacy ever.
The NBA will hope for a better outcome this year, as a young Suns squad featuring top-10 picks Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss along with the dynamic backcourt of Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Devin Booker and the recently returned Leandro Barbosa will face perennial playoff contenders Dallas and San Antonio, with their wealth of international stars.
“It’s an honor to make history alongside the NBA and call Mexico City a second home of the Suns this season,” Suns president Jason Rowley added in the release. “We have an incredibly strong and supportive Hispanic fan base in Arizona, and these two games present a unique opportunity to strengthen our relationship with NBA fans in both Arizona and Mexico. We’re extremely proud to represent the NBA as it continues to grow the game internationally, and we are grateful for this opportunity to help further deepen the relationship between Mexico and Arizona.”
It will be interesting to see player reaction to NBA Global Games Mexico City 2017, since a number of athletes have expressed fear about travel to the Rio Olympics due to Zika virus concerns, and newly signed Spurs forward Pau Gasol has been chief among them. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control listed Mexico among countries where visitors should safeguard against mosquitoes, although the CDC later amended the warning to say Mexico City’s high elevation makes it safer for such travel.
In addition to the two games, to be broadcasted internationally, the NBA will conduct interactive fan events and NBA Cares community outreach efforts. The games will mark the 23rd and 24th held in Mexico over the past quarter-century, the most of any country outside the U.S. and Canada.
Perhaps most fascinating about the announcement, though, was the shot Mavs owner Mark Cuban — a man who may one day have presidential aspirations — took at Donald Trump in the release.
“We are thrilled to be playing in Mexico City,” said Cuban, who bought his majority stake in the Mavericks from H. Ross Perot Jr. three years after the Mavericks last played in Mexico City in 1997. “It’s great for the Mavs, the NBA and a great way to tear down walls and barriers between our countries.”
The “tear down walls” comment seems to be an unmistakable jab at Trump’s notion of building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. While Cuban previously said he would have considered serving as vice president to either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, the outspoken owner officially came out on Twitter as a supporter of the “#nevertrump” movement on the eve of this Global Games release.
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