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Heat players discuss possibility of NBA franchise in Mexico

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The Ringer spoke with Erik Spoelstra, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters about their experience in Mexico City.

NBA: Miami Heat at Brooklyn Nets Jose Mendez-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat defeated the Brooklyn Nets Saturday night.

It was the sixth straight time Miami had beaten the Nets, so that’s not noteworthy. But the Heat played the game in Mexico City, and a recent article on The Ringer discusses the possibility of the NBA having a franchise there. (The Toronto Raptors are the only franchise that resides outside the United States now.) And Erik Spoelstra, Justise Winslow and Dion Waiters all commented for the article.

“There are many reasons why this is an attractive market for us,” Silver said during a press conference before Thursday’s game. “There is a very strong and passionate Mexican American fan base back in the United States, and this is also potentially a gateway for all of Latin America.”

Heat forward Justise Winslow agreed with Silver. “It would be great for the game. The idea is for the game to keep growing in America and globally,” he told The Ringer. “So, traveling here, maybe once or twice a year, depending on what conference, wouldn’t be bad. It’s not too far. It’s great to see the fan support out here. They deserve it if they’re really into basketball like that.”

The above quote references NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who attended the Heat/Nets game. Mexico City is home to 21 million people and just a two-hour flight from San Antonio. Erik Spoelstra said that in some ways, Mexico City seemed not too different from Miami.

“In many ways, walking around last night, there were certain pockets of the neighborhood that felt like you were in Miami,” Spoelstra told me, as members of the Mexican media swarmed Heat point guard Goran Dragic nearby. Despite his relative anonymity in Mexico City, Spoelstra said he had encountered several Heat fans on the street. “In terms of the city, I wasn’t too familiar with it,” he said. “But when we had an opportunity to volunteer to come down here last year, it was a no-brainer. We immediately signed up.”

Dion Waiters offered Dion Waiters-style quotes.

At the Heat practice, I asked Miami shooting guard Dion Waiters if he had any preconceptions about his first visit to Mexico City. “You know, man, like the mob, gangster movies and all that stuff,” he said, seemingly alluding to how Mexico is portrayed in films like Sicario or Netflix’s El Chapo series. “I’m into all that, that’s like my favorite movies. A lot of little crazy stuff going around.”

Waiters said the league had given players an extra security briefing, but he didn’t seem overly concerned. “I’m from the hood so there ain’t much I ain’t see,” he said. “I know they just doing they job, but I come from that and I can adapt to anything. You just never know with the earthquakes, though. As far as everything else, it’s smooth. I’m thinking about coming back for a vacation.”

Will we see an NBA franchise in Mexico City? That is at least a few years off (if it happens), but the NBA will likely hold promotional events and more regular-season games there.