As Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the Summer Olympics in August, the NBA has named a new head of NBA Latin America to continue growing the game in the region.
Arnon de Mello was named the new vice president and managing director of NBA Latin America on Monday, and he will look to capitalize on basketball's popularity in the Olympics to broaden the NBA's reach.
''We're doing a great job already in Brazil and Mexico,'' De Mello said. ''We hope to extend our work in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and other countries as well as in the Caribbean.''
De Mello will be oversee marketing, television, digital media and grassroots engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean. NBA Latin America has offices in Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and New York.
The NBA has made it a point to expand its reach in Latin America, having played 33 games in the region since 1991. Seventeen players from the region currently play in the NBA, including nine from Brazil.
Brazil has emerged as a formidable competitor in the Olympics, and a strong showing in Rio with several NBA players on the roster could catapult the league forward even further as basketball competes against soccer, volleyball and other sports for kid's attention.
''Before, especially the taller kids, were choosing volleyball because they saw a path to success,'' De Mello said. ''They saw those athletes getting medals and world championships. And right now I think we have a very good story to tell and they're seeing that.''
De Mello previously was the NBA's vice president and managing director for Brazil. He has been with the league since 2012 and launched its regional office in Brazil while developing media and television partnerships in the country.
''Arnon is among the most talented and experienced executives in sports, and I'm confident that our business throughout Latin America and the Caribbean will continue to grow under his leadership,'' NBA deputy commissioner and COO Mark Tatum said.
Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the region, but De Mello feels that basketball can make a strong push among children.
''I love soccer,'' he said. ''But I think basketball is a more family oriented game. I think we cater to another audience and we're happy with where we are and where we're going.''