The Internationalization of the NBA Continues: Adam Silver Says Hola to Mexico City, Hello to London
SHENZHEN, CHINA - OCTOBER 11: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to media during the press conference before the match between Charlotte Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers as part of the 2015 NBA Global Games China at Universiade Centre on October 11, 2015 in Shenzhen, China. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)

The NBA will take its talents to Mexico City and London this season, further proving that international teams are the next logical step.

Wednesday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA will host games abroad during the 2017-18 season. Mexico City welcomes the Brooklyn Nets, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. The games will be played in Arena Ciudad de México in early December.

Silver also announced Wednesday that London will host a regular season game. Isiah Thomas and the Boston Celtics will go up against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. The game will be played in the O2 Arena in London on Jan. 11, 2018.

The number of international athletes in the NBA over the past decade has been growing each year. Since 2000, the number of international players who have taken their talents to the United States has doubled—and keeps rising.

According to NBA Communications, the 2016-17 season featured 113 international athletes coming from 41 countries and territories. This upcoming NBA season will see those numbers increase, as they will in each subsequent season.

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Is the massive growth of international athletes taking their talents to the NBA a positive for the league?

I don’t see any negative other than the fact that it increases competition for other NBA players and draft-declared college athletes. This increase of international players also helps the NBA become more global when it comes to broadcasting, marketing, advertising, and sales. A broader, growing fan base is an overall increase for basketball.

Kristaps Porzingis was drafted by the New York Knicks with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Porzingis is from Latvia but spent a number of years in Spain, playing professionally with Baloncesto Sevilla. When Porzingis was initially drafted, the crowd of Knicks fans who attended the draft showed disgust and disappointment.

These fans expected this pick to become a bust and a waste. Well, this 19-year-old Latvian kid ended up as one of the NBA’s rising stars. He averaged 14.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, and 1.3 BPG as a rookie, finishing second in the 2015-16 Rookie of the Year voting behind Minnesota’s big man, Karl-Anthony Towns.

CHECK OUT the New York Knicks Team Center: News, Stats, Standings

Not only do his numbers stand out, but Porzingis was fourth in total jersey sales during his rookie year, trailing All-Stars Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant. Porzingis was also the first rookie since James and Carmelo Anthony to appear in the top 5 in jersey sales for a single year.

Not only are international players bringing their talents to the NBA, they are becoming international stars.

Pau Gasol is from Spain and was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks with the third overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Sure, he was he Kobe‘s sidekick for two World Championship runs. But he’s also a future Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the power forward/center position.

Rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo, considered the face of the Milwaukee Bucks, is from Greece. Not only is he the tallest point guard in the NBA, but many believe he can become the face of the league after eras of LeBron and Kevin Durant have ended.

Does this flooding of international talent to the NBA pressure the league to start thinking about international teams? It seems like the only logical conclusion.


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Chris Milholen

Chris “Cruise” Milholen grew up and still lives in Bergen County, NJ. He is a huge fan of the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Yankees. Chris is currently a student at Montclair State University (Class of 2020) studying Television and Digital Media with a concentration in Sports Media and Journalism and minoring in Sociology. Chris is a Brooklyn Nets Contributor Writer and an NBA National Writer for Elite Sports NY.