John Denton of NBA.com reported this week on the NBA staging an exhibition game between the Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets in American border town Hidalgo, Texas, on Tuesday. Hidalgo’s basketball arena is, “less than a mile from the Rio Grande River and the Mexican border.”
(Native Texan Lewis afraid to leave Texas city’s best hotel)
Denton noted that the NBA has often scheduled preseason games in the past in nontraditional pro hoops markets to “spread goodwill” to fans before the regular season opens.
The irony of the trip to Hidalgo is that at least one Magic player refused to leave his hotel room because of concerns about his personal safety.
While some Magic players are excited about the prospects of spreading NBA goodwill to fans in nontraditional cities there is some trepidation on this trip – especially considering the crime and murder rates in areas near the U.S.-Mexican border these days. So to play it safe, several of the Magic’s players said they will forgo any sightseeing ventures and this will be a stay-in-the-hotel type of trip.
“I remember playing there when I was with Seattle and we played the Rockets,’’ said Rashard Lewis, a Houston native who is somewhat familiar with Hidalgo, Tex. “The hotel that we stay at is right on the border and if you go out on the patio the border is literally like 15 feet away. I didn’t leave the hotel because the border was too close. This time, I’ll stay in the room, watch whatever kind of cable that they have because I’m not going outside there.’’
What makes the attitude of Lewis more disconcerting is that he’s a native Texan and is “somewhat familiar” with Hidalgo. If anyone among Magic players knows what to realistically expect in a Texas border town, it’s Lewis.
If the border was fenced and secured by American border patrol agents, would Lewis feel the same way? One could argue that Mexico’s explosion of drug-related violence isn’t a function of its border with the United States. Though it wouldn’t be unreasonable to argue the opposite, either.
Regardless, one cannot deny it’s astonishing that an NBA player staying in the best hotel an American city has to offer is afraid to leave his hotel room for fear of his personal safety.