MEXICO CITY -- The NBA G League will welcome its first franchise from outside the United States and Canada starting next year, when the Mexico City-based Capitanes make their debut as the league's 29th team.
Calling it a "historic milestone for the NBA," commissioner Adam Silver made the announcement moments before the league kicked off its latest iteration of the Global Games in Mexico City with the Dallas Mavericks and Detroit Pistons facing off at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico.
He was joined by G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim; Raúl Zárraga, the managing director of NBA Mexico; and Capitanes co-owners Patricio Garza and Gilberto Hernández.
The Capitanes currently play in the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional, the top professional league in Mexico since 2017. In their two seasons, they've made the final series twice, losing both times.
"It's an honor to for Capitanes to be the 29th team in the G League and the first in Mexico," Hernández said. "This is a historic moment, not just for our organization, but also for basketball in Mexico as well as our passionate fans."
The addition of the Capitanes marked the latest move for the G League. The Erie Bayhawks, who play as the New Orleans Pelicans' affiliate, will move to Birmingham, Alabama, starting in the 2022 season. The College Park Skyhawks, affiliated with the Atlanta Hawks, recently began their inaugural season in College Park, Georgia, this year after the franchise played its first two seasons in Erie, Pennsylvania.
"We're growing, too," said Abdur-Rahim, who played 13 seasons in the NBA before joining the league as an executive. "I'm proud to welcome the Capitanes to the G League and hope to watch them here next season."
The Capitanes will continue to play in the 5,000-seat Gimnasio Juan de la Barrera, a venue that hosted volleyball at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games. They will not be associated with any NBA franchise as of now, Silver announced.
"There are only two NBA teams left with no direct G League affiliate," Silver said. "The assumption is Portland and Denver will be adding teams over time."
Though all three major North American sports leagues have flirted with the idea of expansion into Mexico over the past decade, the NBA will be the first to field an official team in the Latin American country.
"We're particularly proud that we're a pioneer here," Silver said. "I think [the timing] is indicative of the great things that are happening here and with the Mexican economy."
The NBA first ventured into Mexico in 1992, with a preseason game between the Houston Rockets and the Mavericks taking place at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City. After this weekend, the league will have logged 30 regular-season contests in the country.
On Saturday, the Phoenix Suns will face the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City, capping the first occasion on which four NBA teams make the trip south of the border. Outside of the Mexican capital, the northern city of Monterrey has also hosted preseason games.
Though Silver was adamant in saying that the NBA "is not in expansion mode," the commissioner said he hoped Mexico City would be on the short list for the league if and when the NBA ever decides to go beyond its current 30-team format.
"Mexico City is the largest market in North America," Silver said. "We have an opportunity to create Mexico's team."
The league most recently expanded in 2004, when the Charlotte Bobcats joined. In 2013, when the New Orleans Hornets rebranded as the Pelicans, the Bobcats regained the Hornets' branding and inherited the team's history dating to 1989.
The Capitanes will finish their third and final season in the Mexican top division in early 2020 before joining the G League when its 20th season officially commences.