After a three-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, the NBA returns to Mexico City. The regular season opener will be played in the capital of the United States’ southern neighbor on December 17, 2022 and will feature the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, according to Ira Windman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
In 2019, the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons and San Antonio Spurs played a pair of games in the particularly high metropolis, and the Heat’s first game in North America’s biggest city since 2017, a fact echoed by the then-Heat Dion Waiters wing during their last visit according to Windman.
“I just found out it was actually bigger than New York,” Waiters observed. “It’s crazy.”
The sport has become increasingly popular in Mexico. Raul Zarraga of NBA Mexico estimates around 20 million fans were in the country at the time of the last games.
“I was pleasantly surprised walking around and seeing NBA games on TV everywhere we went, and fans recognized us,” Miami head coach Eric Spoelstra said in 2017. “C felt like we were in Miami.”
Such sentiments were echoed earlier this offseason when the Rookie Wire sat down with recent NBA champion Juan Toscano Anderson to talk about the basketball scene in the capital of his ancestral home of Mexico.
“Mexico City is one of the most amazing cities in the world, and I’ve been all over the world,” Toscano-Anderson explained. “You could try to compare it to New York, maybe a bit LA, maybe Chicago – but even then, that’s doing him a disservice.”
The former Warriors forward and current Los Angeles Lakers winger went through stints overseas playing in Mexico among other places before breaking into the Association.
“Even the guys who are going to play with the Capitanes in the G League (Mexico City’s new franchise in the NBA’s developmental league), I always tell them, ‘You’re going to have the most amazing experience of your life living in Mexico City.
“Honestly, I wish I could get that feeling back,” he added, a fond memory of his time in one of the hemisphere’s most cosmopolitan cities returning to his face.
“The city is always bustling,” Toscano-Anderson explained. “There’s so much to do — the food is amazing; the culture is amazing. I think it’s really good for the NBA.
The millions of fans in Mexico watching or witnessing what Windman describes as “part of Spurs’ expansion beyond their AT&T Center home” in December will almost certainly agree.