Mexico City • How many different ways are there to take a shot?
Walking around the concourses of Arena Ciudad de Mexico an hour before the game was to begin, thousands of fans were waiting in line for one hoops-related activity or another with the NBA’s marketing partners, with stations packed in all around the arena.
At one booth, fans could take their friends on in a shooting contest in a span of 30 seconds with three different hoops: one at 10 feet, one at seven feet, and one at four feet, worth three points, two, and one, respectively. One station had virtual reality headsets and handgear, so fans could take shots on a huge projected screen on the wall. If that kind of virtual reality wasn’t your cup of tea, Xboxes with NBA2K set up were set up in another station.
And yes, there were tequila shots at one stand, being given out as free samples for interested fans.
“People really enjoy getting there earlier and the whole experience, it’s really like a theme park,” Raul Zarraga, head of NBA Mexico, said.
Thanks to the exchange rate, even the things that weren’t free were relatively inexpensive from an American’s point of view. One intrepid reporter had a 10-piece sushi meal that cost under $6, while more typical stadium fare like beers and nachos stayed under $5.
Around the stadium, fans could be seeing wearing all manner of NBA gear, supporting the Spurs, Lakers, Knicks and many more. But Jazz jerseys were actually the majority for this contest, with Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio being the leading favorites.
Some of those Jazz fans had traveled from Salt Lake City for the occasion, as well as to experience the largest city in the Western Hemisphere — there are over 21 million inhabitants of the Mexico City metropolitan area.
Other Jazz fans, though, were from Mexico City and were excited to see their team play. Some fans — like Raul Serrano, walking around in a Carlos Boozer jersey before the game — began following the team because of their membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Others, though, started following the team because of John Stockton and Karl Malone and the success of the ’90s.
For those new to the NBA, the league handed out 20-page programs describing the past and the present of the teams playing, with information on everyone from Stockton and Malone to Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway.
The Jazz players told an enchanted Mexican media that, despite the loss, they enjoyed their time in Mexico City. Mitchell wore a customized Mexican soccer jersey with “SPIDA” and his No. 45 on the back to the game’s press conference, earning even more fans in the country.
Mitchell did disappoint them once, though. When he said that the teams he had supported in the World Cup didn’t do so well, there were some nervous laughs from the assembled crowd.