The NBA will announce a new basketball development and training academy in Mexico City during the Global Games Dec. 7 and 9, in conjunction with CONADE (Mexico’s National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport) and the Mexican Basketball Federation, sources told ESPN.
The NBA has long discussed the idea of having a franchise based in Mexico City, and sources say the league-funded academy in Mexico City could be the first step toward realizing that goal.
Commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference prior to the Mexico City Global Games in January during which he discussed the potential.
“In terms of a franchise here in Mexico City, it is something to look at,” he said. “Obviously, it’s an incredible market with over 20 million people, the largest market in North America and, while we have no immediate plans to expand, one of the things that we look at, it’s whether expanding will be additive to the league as a whole and clearly coming to Mexico City, not just because the population of the city but as a gateway to the rest of Latin America could potentially be very important for the league.”
The NBA currently has six academies: three in China (Jinan, Urumqi and Hangzhou), one in Thies, Senegal, one in Delhi, India, and a Global Academy serving as the hub for elite prospects, in Canberra, Australia.
The academies provide teenagers with NBA-level coaching, facilities and competition, while also stressing educational development. The regional academies (besides the hub in Australia) are in areas with lesser basketball infrastructure and tradition where elite-level prospects may slip between the cracks, lessening the NBA’s opportunity to expand its reach with marquee international talent. The academies are expected to expand the league’s pool of potential players to add to team’s rosters, while also improving the basketball culture in those areas.
Sources say the seventh academy in Mexico City, named the NBA Academy Latin America, will initially be utilized as a location for male and female prospects from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, starting early next year. Mexico City already has a state of the art facility in CNAR, the National Center for Talent Development and High Performance Sports, at its disposal that the NBA can tap into.
The NBA, CONADE and the Mexican Basketball Federation will jointly scout and identify elite prospects aged 14-17 who will receive scholarships and training at the academy.
Down the road, Mexico City could emerge as the 31st G League franchise, where prospects from the seven academies graduate up to, according to sources. They would have an opportunity to play competitive games against pro competition, which should accelerate their development.
Silver has said Mexico needs home-grown NBA players to make it a viable franchise candidate.
“In order to grow basketball in Mexico, we realize we need to ensure that NBA-caliber players are coming from this market,” Silver said last January. “So just as we look at other markets throughout the world, we’re going to look to open an academy here in Mexico because there’s a lot of great basketball being played at a young level. You have some fantastic 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds. But what happens when the players get to be 15, 16 years old, unless they’ve played against other top players, unless they play top-notch competition, they never advance to NBA-caliber players. So we’re looking at situations around the world and realize that in certain cases there’s more that we the NBA can do by coming into markets like Mexico and helping to bring together the very best players, and having them play against each other and then maybe travel when they’re not in school in the summers so they’ll have the opportunity to play against other great players around the world.”
Any reshaping of the one-and-done rule, which has massive consequences for college basketball, would also have a significant impact on the international game if it reduces the age of NBA draft early-entry candidates from 19 to 18.
The addition of two-way and exhibit 10 contracts gives NBA team executives more options to add developmental prospects from around the globe, especially those with no interest in going to college, and these academies could become pipelines for such players.