The Chicago Bulls have been struggling this year. And even though the Chicago team has a storied past in one of America’s favorite cities, the Bulls have been looking outside of Illinois to build their fan base.
This week the Bulls are set to play a regular season game against the Orlando Magic in Mexico City. This is the first time that the Bulls have played a game outside the U.S. or Canada. And apparently, they have many fans who are happy to host them. In polls done by the NBA over the summer, it was found that the Bulls are the second most popular team in Mexico, second only to the Lakers.
The NBA in Mexico
The NBA doesn’t come to Mexico much but it is taking an initiative to do it more and more. This past season there were four regular season games played in Mexico. That’s the most ever since the league starting playing games south of the boarder again in 2014.
NBA games always draw good crowds in Mexico because of the novelty of the event. It is rare for Mexicans to get a chance to see an NBA game in their home country. But this time there is an added level of excitement because many of those coming to the game are actually fans of the Bulls. This could be just the kind of boost that the Bulls need to take their season up a notch. At 6-22, they are having an extremely poor beginning to the 2018/2019 season.
There are tons of Bulls fans in Mexico but there are fans of every team as well. In just the last year, viewership of NBA games has risen 20 percent. That means that about 16 million people in Mexico watch NBA games and highlights every week. These kind of numbers have lead the NBA to renew their broadcasting contracts in Mexico and sign on for more regular season games there next year.
The NBA’s Goals in Mexico
Playing regular season games in Mexico is a way of putting feelers out to gauge interest in basketball. So far it seems that the interest is there but needs to be cultivated. The ultimate goal of the NBA is to have a new franchise in Mexico. This would draw in many more fans and create a great deal of revenue for the league. But in order to do that there are many steps that need to be followed.
First of all, it would help to have more Mexican players playing in the NBA. So the NBA is starting youth camps and teams across the country to get kids interested and attempt to find future stars.
As it stands, there have only been four Mexican players in history that have made it into the NBA. So far, the quality of basketball just isn’t good enough to routinely produce good players. The best league in the country is located only in the northwest so much of Mexico has no basketball team to follow. But that could change.
The commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, has plans to put a G League team in Mexico as a sort of test run to see if it could drum up enough support to survive. The nest step obviously would be to add an expansion team to the league and give Mexico its first NBA team. It is likely that the NBA is a long way away from doing anything like this. But the Bulls game this week is a good place to start.