Boston Celtics

Adam Silver hints at NBA adding international expansion teams

The commissioner also spoke on some early feedback he's received on the In-Season Tournament.

NBC Universal, Inc.

With the Toronto Raptors currently the only team outside of the United States, NBA commissioner Adam Silver isn't ready to rule out the possibility of international league expansion.

Silver joined Mike Gorman and Brian Scalabrine on NBC Sports Boston's broadcast of Monday's Boston Celtics-New York Knicks matchup to discuss the possibility. Gorman asked Silver if fans can look forward to more games outside of the United States. In the past, the NBA has hosted both preseason and regular season games in over 17 different countries, with the games often drawing large crowds. With abundant evidence that interest in the league spans beyond our borders, could we see more involvement overseas?

"Likely," Silver responded. "It's interesting. It's a balance, because we also know the impact travel has on players, as well. So, to your point, I was in Abu Dhabi (this) preseason, it's a little easier for players' bodies because they have time to recover, especially when there are big time zone shifts."

While expansion to Europe, for example, would be tough due to long travel times and large time differences, an expansion to Mexico, or more teams in Canada, could be much more within the realm of possibility.

"Mexico City is easy in terms of, I mean it's high altitude, it's 2,000 feet higher than Denver, so that affects the players a bit, but it's a shorter flight to Mexico City from New York than it is to LA, so...One day, I think that would be incredible to actually expand to a market like Mexico City."

Last week, the Atlanta Hawks topped the Orlando Magic in a thrilling 120-119 game hosted in Mexico City in front of a sold-out crowd of 22,300 fans. In what was the league's 32nd game hosted in Mexico, ESPN's NBA viewership in the country has increased by 25 percent year-over-year, ranking within the top 10 in international market League Pass subscriptions.

"In the meantime, we are playing in Paris in January again," Silver said. "It is very much a global league, we got players from roughly 40 countries, over a quarter of the players were born outside of the United States, and especially now with digital media, streaming media, you guys know; I'm sure you get fan mail from 200-plus countries, that's where our games are carried."

After wrapping up the discussion on international expansion, the conversation on the broadcast shifted focus to the new In-Season Tournament.

"I think the response has been terrific," Silver added. "As I've said before, the courts may be an acquired taste for some, they're pretty distinctive so we may have to tweak them a bit, depending on the floor, but I like the fact that it's a very different experience when you tune in."

The court designs for the In-Season Tournament have been a topic of discussion among fans, with some loving the distinct look and some less in favor of the changes. For the Celtics, one of the most noteworthy exemptions from their court design was the lack of parquet, which was reportedly requested by the franchise and denied by the league.

"The response in terms of attendance has been terrific," Silver continued. "Ratings, we were up over 100 percent the first weekend, we were up over 50 percent last week, so people are paying attention. ...

"Probably most importantly, the players are into it. I don't know what you guys are hearing, but I think the U.S. players, from their experience in college, the tournament around Thanksgiving or the holidays, the international players know this cup system because it comes from international soccer, I think they're looking forward to the final four notion in Las Vegas."

The group stages of the In-Season Tournament will run through Nov. 28, with the single elimination bracket beginning on Dec. 4. The first In-Season Tournament champion will be crowned on Dec. 9 in Las Vegas.

Contact Us