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December 12, 2019
Mexico City, Mexico
THE MODERATOR: Good evening and welcome. It's a great honor for me to introduce our participants today.
From my left, we have Capitanes co-owners Patricio Garza and Gilberto Hernandez; NBA Commissioner Adam Silver; president of the NBA G League, Shareef Abdur-Rahim; NBA Mexico Vice President and Managing Director Raul Zarraga.
I'll turn it over to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his opening remarks.
ADAM SILVER: Thank you very much. Thank you all for being here tonight.
First of all, let me thank the four NBA teams who are playing and will be playing in Mexico City tonight and on Saturday. First of all, the Mavericks and the Pistons will be playing here tonight. We very much appreciate that the principal owners of those teams, Mark Cuban and Tom Gores, both have made the trip into Mexico City.
I had a chance to talk to many of their players today. They're hugely enthusiastic about being here for this game. Of course, the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns will be joining us on Saturday.
This is the first time that four NBA teams have traveled to Mexico City for these games. With the two games coming up, we will have played our 29th and 30th games in Mexico, which are the most number of games we've played in any country other than the United States and Canada. To me, that makes very clear the enormous commitment we have to this market in Mexico City, to Mexico and to all of Latin America.
Let me just add, in addition to the games that we're playing here, by having these four teams in-market, we have an opportunity to conduct clinics, to do programs throughout the city. In fact, today we opened up our very first NBA Store here in Mexico City as well.
I think you're probably all wondering why I have these colleagues with me on stage today. The reason is we have a very important announcement to make: Next season we'll be launching an NBA G League team here in Mexico City. Our partner will be Capitanes, a team that already exists here in Mexico City. They will be the 29th team in the NBA G League.
Let me offer a few thank yous before I turn it over to my colleagues for a few comments. First of all, to the owner of Capitanes, Moises Cosio, who could not be here with us tonight. He was instrumental to getting this deal done. We look forward to the partnership.
We are fortunate to have with us two of Moises' partners today. We have Patricio and Gilberto. Thank you both again for the partnership and for being here.
Let me also thank a few of my colleagues in the NBA who were instrumental to getting this arrangement completed, to me in record time. First of all, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, who is here in the front row, also the chief operating officer of the league. Mark, thank you for all your hard work.
We have the managing director of Latin America, Arnon de Mello, who is here in the audience today. Thank you for all you've contributed to this.
Of course, Raul Zarraga, our managing director here in Mexico. And, of course, the president of the G League, Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Thank you very much.
Let me just conclude before we answer questions, this is truly a historic milestone for the NBA and of course for the G League. I think we all will remember this day when we are announcing that we're going to have our very first G League team in Mexico City. I think it's an important signal to the market just how important we view the entire country of Mexico and all of Latin America.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. I now invite NBA G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim to speak.
SHAREEF ABDUR-RAHIM: Thank you and good evening. Thank you for having us. I am thrilled to be here to make this historic announcement, Capitanes partnering with the NBA G League to launch our first-ever G League team here in Mexico.
To echo Adam, the momentum here in Mexico around basketball is extremely positive. We believe that this partnership with Capitanes will only grow that excitement for the game of basketball.
This is a pivotal next step not only for Mexico, basketball development in Latin America, but also for the growth of the G League. We just started our 19th season. Over the past 18 years, the G League has transformed from just eight teams to 28 teams this season.
With that growth, we've also grown in our connection to NBA teams. This season, all of our teams are owned and operated by NBA teams. With that, we've continued to grow a strong and passionate fan base in the United States. The communities we play in, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, New York, all embrace our G League players. The same way we know Mexico City will continue to embrace Capitanes, as they get to know our G League, our G League players, they will embrace the G League.
The G League is the official development league of the NBA. We've proven our ability to develop NBA players. At the start of this season, over 40% of NBA players have G League experience. Of last year's NBA Draft, over 60% of the drafted players spent time in the G League. Over approximately 50 players were signed out of the G League last season.
It's this opportunity that we provide to players to grow their skills, to continue to develop, live out their dream of being NBA players, that we're excited to also extend here to players in Mexico, Latin America. I'm sure that folks that come and see games, G League games, here in Mexico City will recognize the passion and excitement of our players, of our games.
Again, we're thrilled to be here. I extend gratitude to Gilberto, Moises, Patricio, for their trust in the G League, in me. We will make sure this is a meaningful partnership.
Again, this is a historic day for the NBA G League, Capitanes and for basketball in Mexico.
THE MODERATOR: I invite Capitanes co-owner Gilberto Hernandez.
GILBERTO HERNANDEZ: Thank you so much. Thank you, everyone, for being here.
It's been amazing. It's been a roller coaster. It's great. It's been great. This is a huge landmark moment for our organization, for our team. I would say a milestone. Great news not only for our team, but I believe for our city, for Mexico City, a wonderful, huge city, driving and living basketball every day.
This is great news for our country. The fact that the NBA, the most global league in the whole world, is putting solid two feet in our country, I believe it's great news, not only for basketball, but for sports nationwide.
When we started this team, Patricio, Moises -- which we would really like for him to be here -- we started with a dream. We started a dream about developing basketball, bringing kids, bringing youth to this beautiful sport. Really I wouldn't believe that we would be sitting here sealing this partnership with the NBA.
It's been great. I believe that the years to come will be amazing. We're really, really excited. I mean, words can't describe how I feel right now. Thank you so much. Thank you, Adam, Shareef. Of course, Raul, you know how I feel.
RAUL ZARRAGA: I know.
GILBERTO HERNANDEZ: Patricio, thank you for being here. Again, great news for our country and Capitanes. I would have to say right now we compete in the National Mexican League. I would have to say they were, of course, instrumental in the development in the sealing of this deal as well. Thanks to our league. This is good news not only for basketball nationwide but for our league.
THE MODERATOR: Now we're ready to take questions.
Q. Commissioner, is it possible to explain more about the partnership with Capitanes? It's only the name or in the next years make the draft? Is possible to have Mexican players on the team next year?
ADAM SILVER: Let me begin, and they may have something to add, that Capitanes will continue to run their club. I think we very much hope they will have Mexican players participating in the G League. But at the end of the day, they also want to compete in the G League. They want to assemble a world-class team. I think we want to strike the right balance.
I'm sure you would like to add to that.
GILBERTO HERNANDEZ: Capitanes will stay the same logo, same players. There are some details we have to work around. But, yeah, I mean, the organization stays exactly the same as it is.
Q. When you did got your spot as the commissioner, did you see at this moment that Mexico was growing this big?
ADAM SILVER: It's a great question. I would only say I think what I inherited were many decades of work here in Mexico and in Latin America. As I mentioned earlier, we played the most games outside of the U.S. and Canada.
I will say, though, I think with my colleagues from the NBA, many of them who are here today, we very much doubled down our efforts over the last five years as we've continued to see the opportunity.
I'd say also in the last several years, there's been dramatic changes in media and technology that's made our game more accessible, with our partnership with Televisa, ESPN Deportes here in Mexico. It makes it that much easier to transmit the games, make them available on devices other than television. We've seen an explosion of interest in Mexico over the last five years or so.
Q. Commissioner Silver, will Capitanes be affiliated with a specific NBA franchise? Would it be safe to assume down the line perhaps an NBA team could also be located in Mexico City?
ADAM SILVER: The answer to your first question is, no, Capitanes will not have a specific affiliation with an NBA team. At least that's our thinking at the moment.
Just to point out, part of the reason is there are only two NBA teams left that do not have direct affiliations, direct G League teams. The assumption is those two teams, Portland and Denver, will also be adding G League teams over time. Capitanes will be independent.
In terms of potential expansion to Mexico City, it's certainly something that we've talked about in the past. I think we recognize, as I said earlier, this is the largest market in North America. I think similar to what we see with the Toronto Raptors in Canada, I think there's an opportunity to create Mexico's team, not just Mexico City. In addition, as we've all talked about, there's a very large Mexican-American population, Hispanic population, on top of that that would I think would be built-in followers.
Having said all of those wonderful things, we're not in an expansion mode at this time. I have no doubt, the league, at whatever time the tables turn to look at expansion, Mexico City will be on our list.
Q. What are the expectations specifically from the Mexican market? Have you measured any success in the Mexican market? How do you plan to distinguish the Mexican market from the Latino market, which is very important for American sports? Capitanes, how have you noticed the increase of basketball fans since you started a few years ago? What are your plans on your infrastructure? Are you planning to expand the gymnasium, Juan de la Barrera?
RAUL ZARRAGA: We have seen a great progress in the number of fans that we have in Mexico. Right now we have 20 million fans. Compared to 2017, this is a 25% growth. It is evident that the growth of the NBA has been amazing during the past years. We can see this in the digital League Pass distribution that we have in Mexico. Of course, the games we are having here, sold-out arenas, the distribution of our games nationwide on paid and open TV, the opening of a new store.
It is a natural consequence, doing this kind of initiative, the G League team in Mexico. I couldn't be more proud of our fans, of our partners and of course working at the NBA to get this done.
On the other side, yes, we need to work on the distinction of the identity of the team here and in the U.S. with the Hispanic community. That's part of the work we need to do.
We feel very confident that we will have a huge story. A year from now, we're going to be telling you how successful things are getting. Thank you for the question.
Now I think the next one is for you.
PATRICIO GARZA: About the structure of Capitanes, Capitanes will remain local. That's one of the most important things. We are amazed everything that's happening around the team.
We will remain in the Juan de la Barrera. We appreciate very much the help of the authorities that are our hosts. It's a historic place. We appreciate very much all the help that we have received there. We will remain local. We will remain playing at the Juan de la Barrera.
Of course, there will be Mexican players. We know that this is a great window for players from Mexico and from America Latina to play once again in the NBA, if possible.
Q. Commissioner, it's clear that American sports leagues have rekindled their interest in Mexico over the last decade. Your league is the first to make the commitment to field a team here. Why this timing in particular? Does it mean anything to you and to the NBA in general having pioneered this before the NFL or MLB?
ADAM SILVER: We don't necessarily see ourselves in competition with the other leagues in that fashion. In fact, of course, we are very aware of their activities here in Mexico, and actually think it's positive. It is sort of a rising tide lifts all boats. I think to the extent other leagues are focused on this market is important.
Having said that, I can't take any personal credit, but I'm incredibly proud of my colleagues with Capitanes that came together and made this happen. Doing something first is significant for this league.
I also think in terms of the focus here on Mexico City, I think the indication is just the fact that you're seeing all of the leagues focused on this country and this city is indicative of all the positive indicators and tremendous things that are happening with the Mexican economy.
I think also just sort of as a separate aside, as an American, I think in terms of our bilateral relations with Mexico, we've observed this all over the world, these so-called people-to-people exchanges are critically important, particularly in sports and culture and music. This is how you create commonality among people, ultimately build relations, understanding and empathy.
From that standpoint, we're particularly proud we're sort of a pioneer here.
Q. Commissioner Silver, there's been some issues in Mexican sports here. The soccer league just shut down a team. There's been some issues with maybe the NFL, some issues with contracts. What do you see here in the country that gives you confidence that this partnership will work, that the population will be behind the team?
ADAM SILVER: I'll answer, but I'd like to pass to my colleague after.
From my standpoint, what we see by virtue of the television relationships that we have here, the marketing relationships -- as I mentioned we just opened a new NBA Store -- is that we have very strong and successful commercial relationships.
We haven't had any hiccups around our games in any recent memory. Very much feel confident entering into business and legal relationships very similar to how we do in the United States and other parts of the world.
I see absolutely no reason why we shouldn't have the same confidence in taking this next step, especially as we've all become fast friends. We began in essence these conversations two years ago. We've all gotten to know each other. That's how we build trust as well.
RAUL ZARRAGA: Additionally to that, I absolutely agree. Keep in mind, basketball has been one of the most practiced sports in Mexico. We have done significant progress extending the level of access that fans have nationwide. Definitely, yes, we have to do more, but we have done great things with Jr. NBA, our grassroots initiatives that have helped us be in the exact place we need to be.
There are more basketball courts than any other sport in Mexico. We have a lot of distribution for people to watch or even attend our events or participate in our tournaments or leagues. We have the academy, as well. We are looking for talent, that's for sure. We are looking for the future players.
This G League team is part of this basketball ecosystem that we are building around the nation. Now we are creating an alternative for them so in the future they can see themselves living basketball and perhaps playing in the NBA.
Q. Commissioner or Shareef, there is a contract for how many years? What are the terms of the relationship? How will the national league be working with the NBA, together or separately?
SHAREEF ABDUR-RAHIM: We are excited for the partnership with Capitanes. We have an agreement for Capitanes to play in the G League for five years, but we see it being a relationship that will go much longer than that. We're excited for the partnership.
GILBERTO HERNANDEZ: We will end this season, of course. We expect to win it. We're doing fine. After this LNBP season, we will be staying with the franchise here with the LNBP. We will start building the G League team with our partner the NBA. No big news in such terms. We will be building a roster. We hope to have, of course, a lot of Mexicans, a lot of Latinos and try to build around that.
What is our dream? To bring another Mexican to the NBA, of course, very soon. We want to start with grassroots, as Raul was saying. I was involved in the development of the academy, and we've made a huge success in that partnership with the NBA. We expect this to be more than successful.
Q. Commissioner, what's your relationship with the current Mexican government? What is the next step for the NBA, maybe a third game in the future for Mexico?
ADAM SILVER: We have a very positive relationship with the Mexican government. Of course, we would not be playing these games without the appropriate permitting, appropriate business relationship. We're very thankful to the Mexican government, the local government here in Mexico City, for being so supportive.
In terms of future games, we have no announcements to make yet. As I said, given that these are the 29th and 30th games, we plan to continue.
I'll say one additional thought, though, about the games we play here. Now that we will have an NBA G League team on the ground here in Mexico City in essence during the regular season, I think we may be thinking in certain instances more about the preseason only because then when we come in in the preseason we have more time to spend, for those teams to spend, in the community.
As you all know, we have a very dense schedule. When the four teams are here to play games, as I mentioned earlier, they're able to do some things in the community, but they need to move on to the next game very quickly. If we bring preseason games, which we have in the past, we can work in conjunction with our G League affiliate, work to grow the game and spend more time in the community.
Q. Raul, we've talked about this thing of having a team in Mexico. Now it's a reality. How does it feel to you, being the face of NBA in Mexico, achieving such a groundbreaking moment?
RAUL ZARRAGA: Amazing. I mean, this is something that we've been working for for such a long time. We always understood this was a great next step for the country, for the fans, for the NBA of course, for our partners. I couldn't be more excited. I love what I do. Thank God I am in the place that I want to be.
When you love what you do, these kind of moments are pretty particular, you know? Now it's time to work. We are doing an announcement now, but the best is yet to come.
We have the best partner, the best supporting of the league, the best fan base and the best partners outside that I am sure will help us to make this happen.
That's more or less the way I feel. I cannot say any more because then I'm going to need a tissue.
GILBERTO HERNANDEZ: Let me add that this is about the fan base. If we were thinking about maybe building a new team out of nothing, that would be harder. But we're trying to bring the best level of basketball to Capitanes' fan base and, of course, basketball fans in Mexico City.
We believe with our logo, our team -- of course we've been three years. It's not a lot for a team, but we believe we will be building a lot of fans after this.
Q. With there being a combined 21 players in these next two games that are international, it's clear to see basketball is a more recognized global sport. What is the NBA doing to make it more international, not just in the Americas, but Europe, Africa and Asia?
ADAM SILVER: Thank you for being here and asking that question.
Several things. One is, as my colleague earlier mentioned, we have an academy here in Mexico City. We have academies throughout the world, in Africa, in China, in India, here in Latin America. There we are working with the elite players to develop them.
More on a grassroots basis, we have our Jr. NBA and Jr. WNBA programs throughout the world where we have an opportunity to interact with literally millions of young people, then digitally to hundreds of millions of people.
Lastly I'll point to something we announced last year, which is we'll be launching a new league in Africa in March of this coming year, of 2020. There's yet another opportunity to directly build the game on the ground.
We work closely with our federation, FIBA, on these programs. As you pointed out, the number of players who are represented on these four teams that are international roughly reflect the 25% of our league that is now international. Certainly if you look at some of who those players are, including those on the court tonight, many of those international players are the truly elite players in the game.
Just as Gilberto and Patricio pointed out, this is the next step in this market. We're learning we need to be on the ground, we need to be local, we need to get basketballs in the hands of young boys and girls. We need to work particularly with the elite players. Everything comes together, then we continue to see this game growing on a global basis.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you so much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports