NBA expansion to Europe, and a classic case of sports fatigue

On the second Thursday of October, the Boston Celtics play Real Madrid as part of the NBA’s Global Games Tour. This has naturally, inevitably, raised the topic of NBA expansion to Europe.

It’s natural and inevitable, yes… and also quite tiring.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had to shoot down notions of expansion to Europe on Wednesday, as he spoke to reporters before the Celtics-Real Madrid contest. 

We need to get a few things straight on this matter.

The broader topic of expansion by any of America’s four major professional sports leagues to nations other than Canada has become so worn, so talked-out and exhausted, that any new or subsequent reference to the issue contains all the nutritional value of a twinkie covered in chocolate sauce, washed down with a cold Mountain Dew.

We have to cool it with expansion talk, if only because it’s pointless to address an issue if there’s no serious chance of movement ever occurring. A given cause is hurt, not helped, in such circumstances. It’s very much a situation in which the people trying to start or perpetuate the discussion are putting the cart before the horse.


NBA fans have had to put up with a fake Adrian Wojnarowski account for years, a source of unending frustration on draft night and during the weeks preceding the trade deadline. NFL fans have to deal with fake accounts for Adam Schefter and other reporters such as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and

In early September, a stir was caused when a tweet seemingly from Rapoport’s account said that talks were in progress between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Mexico City. However, the third letter in Rapoport’s actual Twitter account was changed — it was a fake, so the notion of expansion outside the United States and Canada was shot down in a heartbeat.

Nevertheless, as useless as fake accounts are when they engage solely in the practice of misleading the public (as opposed to providing humor — any purposefully misleading fake account needs to be obliterated by Twitter), the whole episode was revealing and instructive.

It’s true that Mexico City shares North American terrain with the United States and Canada. The idea of traveling to Mexico City isn’t exactly convenient, but in a reworked “South” or “Southwest Division” in a pro sports league, it might strike some fans as being realistic.

However, when one considers the notion of a team’s players and families living in Mexico City, the concept falls apart. The air quality in and near Mexico City is (and has been) a longstanding point of concern on the “liveable city” scale. More recently, the instability and drug cartel-related violence which have defined life in many parts of Mexico have come closer to Mexico City.

Even though Mexico City is more geographically proximate to the United States than any other non-Canadian location which has been mentioned as an expansion candidate, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pull off the feat. If Australia occupied the part of the globe Mexico currently covers, the idea of expansion would be so much more realistic.

Australia’s English-language centrality and diverse ethnic makeup — situated within a sports-friendly culture and an embrace of American sports — would be perfect for expansion into the NBA and Major League Baseball. Alas, geography so obviously works against that idea. Mexico City has the geography, but not a lot of the other factors which also have to be part of the equation.

Even if you stay in the North American continent (and exclude Canada from this discussion), you can see that expansion to other nations is extremely difficult, bordering on impossible. The idea that half or more of the league’s teams can — and will — jet between Europe and the States multiple times per season is, on its face, ridiculous. It’s not even worthy of discussion.

The “cart before the horse” dynamic has already been hinted at in the discussion above, but its most central representation can be found in the absence of laying out a convincing logistical arrangement for the entire season and the playoffs. If such a plan isn’t formulated and vetted, no subsequent discussion about expansion beyond (non-Canadian) North America should ever be allowed to get off the ground.

Let’s stop the talk about expansion to new nations, in the NBA and other American pro sports leagues. If this is something that’s desirable for the NBA and other leagues, let’s talk logistics first… and let’s stick with discussions of logistics until a workable plan exists.

For now, let’s shelve the tired questions about a topic which shouldn’t be taken very seriously at all.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |