The San Antonio Spurs are headed to Mexico on Saturday to play against the Phoenix Suns. The Spurs, Suns, Mavericks, and Pistons will serve as global ambassadors for the NBA and play regular-season games south of the border.
The NBA and the country of Mexico have a strong and long-lasting relationship that can be traced back to 1992. As the league globalizes the game we all love, more and more games have been taking place in other nations. Saturday’s game marks the sixth time the San Antonio Spurs have traveled to Mexico.
The Spurs have also always had a unique and special relationship with the country of Mexico and the Hispanic community. San Antonio is the closet NBA city to Mexico City and has one of the strongest Hispanic communities in the country. Given that sixty percent of the population of San Antonio is of Hispanic descent it is no surprise that there are so many Mexican Spurs fans.
It’s clear to see how important the Hispanic culture is with the Spurs. From the mariachi band’s greeting you outside the AT&T Center to the food that is served at the fresca stands it’s impossible to take in a Spurs game without feeling the Hispanic influence.
The Hispanic community is all about tradition and family. The community has taken the San Antonio Spurs and made them part of their tradition but, more importantly, part of their family. Any Spur is always welcome to a helping of carne asada and seeing the silver and black mixed with the red, white and green is a common sight.
The Spurs have adopted Mexican traditions like “El Dia de Los Muertos” where the typical “calabera” can be seen mixed in with Spurs colors or even The Coyote himself. They even melded the Mexican version of bingo with their annual schedule release to do something new and unique this year.
It helps that one of the greatest players in franchise history is from a Hispanic nation. The Hispanic Spurs fan love all Spurs but we will always have a special connection to Manu Ginobili. Manu is a Hispanics hero and to know that they have a Hispanic legend that will surely go into the Hall of Fame is a great source of pride and joy for the community.
In Mexico, soccer and boxing are the main sports, but recently the NFL and NBA have grown quickly. The NFL is playing regular-season games in Mexico City on a regular basis and Mexico is set to get their very own G-League team for 2020-21 season. The Capitanes will join the 905 Raptors as the only G-League teams to be based outside the United States.
The Capitanes will continue to run their own team and will not be directly affiliated with an NBA franchise. That connection could come in time but for now, the Capitanes will serve as a stand-alone G-League team.
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The addition of this team to the G-League does further strengthen the NBA’s case for expanding to Mexico City in the future. Whenever the league does decide to expand again expect Mexico City to join Seattle and Vancouver as teams near the top of the list as potential destinations for the next NBA team.
Sadly the Spurs have the worst record of the four teams set to play in Mexico this year. Given San Antonio’s struggles in road games, the matchup itself doesn’t seem to be the most exciting. However, every game is very important for the Spurs throughout the rest of the season. After an ugly loss to the Cavaliers and in a tight Western Conference, the Spurs will have plenty of motivation coming into Saturday.
The significance of this game is not lost on the Spurs. Spurs President of Sports Franchises R.C. Buford recognized the importance of the game and the Spurs special connection to Mexico when he spoke to W. Scott Bailey of the San Antonio Business Journal after the game was announced this summer.
“It’s an honor for the Spurs organization to be able to represent South Texas and the NBA by, once again, playing in Mexico City. The relationship between our community and Mexico is important and impactful on many levels. We look forward to a wonderful experience and are excited to share Spurs basketball with all of our fans in Mexico.”
Besides a culturally impactful game and an all-around good experience for the fans and the players, the Spurs need to take this chance to have a home-away game. With so many Spurs fans based in Mexico City, the Spurs can turn an away game into a home game, and hopefully fix the problems they have had all season when playing on the road.
The game will be streamed on Fox Sports Southwest or through ESPN Deportes. With a capacity of over 22 thousand seats in the Mexico City Arena, the Spurs game against Suns will surely fill every corner. Hopefully, it’ll be mostly Spurs fans in the house.