In a landmark announcement, the Phoenix Suns proclaimed that they will be the "host" team for two regular season games in Mexico City on January 12 and 14 of the 2016-17 campaign. 2017 will mark the 25th anniversary of the NBA's first game in Mexico, and there is an obvious focus on expanding the game (and the business) of basketball to the lucrative market of Mexico City, given their population of 8.8 million people. (Clears throat), that is more than New York City, folks.
Sure, venturing to Mexico City figures to present business gains for all parties involved -- this why most business deals are struck after all -- but there is something commendable about the NBA making an effort to build a bridge with Mexico in opposed to building a wall. Bringing the NBA product to Mexico will be a really big deal to locals, and sport is an unquestioned unifier not only in our country, but around the world as well. It is not uncommon for cultural barriers to be shattered as two unlike souls bond over a common fandom towards a favorite team, player, or league.
And that is the biggest coup for the Suns in all of this: It is no secret that Phoenix boasts one of the highest Hispanic populations in the country (according to azcentral.com, 41 percent of Phoenix's residents are Hispanic), and being labeled as the home team for this venture will expand the Suns' fan base leaps and bounds. Even if they pierce a seemingly insignificant portion of that 8.8 million person figure from before, the business side of Suns organization will be doing back flips.
By the sheer nature of geography, the Suns are in the best position to strike a chord with the people of Mexico, expand the league's brand while simultaneously pushing their brand, and further increase their bottom line. It's a win-win scenario.
"It's an honor to make history alongside the NBA and call Mexico City a second home of the Suns this season. We have an incredibly strong and supportive Hispanic fan base in Arizona, and the two games present a unique opportunity to strengthen our relationship with NBA fans in both Arizona and Mexico," Suns President Jason Rowley said. "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."
That last line was a consistent talking point for all of the speakers during today's press conference: Let's use the NBA as a vehicle to push harmony between two nations with a contentious past. It is so arbitrary to think of something as simple as a game having a profound impact on relations between two gigantic North American regions, but again, that is what makes sport so unique.
Coach Earl Watson passionately spoke to the impact and gratitude he feels for being apart of this event due to his family's Mexican heritage. Watson is notorious for his impassioned soliloquies, but it was apparent that this whole spectacle means the world to him. There has to be a tremendous pride factor involved with the fact that he will be spearheading the team that will be the first to host two consecutive regular-season games in Mexico.
One other note: Since the Suns will be the "home" team for both games, that will decrease the number of games played at Talking Stick Resort Arena from 41 to 39. Season ticket holders will not pleased with that reality, and I am working on getting a statement from Suns PR about a plan of action to either compromise with or refund said season ticket holders. Based on the conversation I had with the staff, they were expecting recoil from that part of the fan base, and there is a plan in place to deal with that issue.
Statement from Suns President Jason Rowley:
We’re going to ensure our SixthMan Members are well taken care of. They are our most loyal supporters, so we’re going to work with each of them individually to make sure the value they receive in lieu of this amazing opportunity to play in Mexico City is one that represents the great appreciation we have for their continued support. We are hopeful that some will make the trip to Mexico City to support the team, but regardless, they will be sure to see the value as a loyal Member here at home.