The Chicago Bulls huddle before a game against the Sacramento Kings.

The Bulls arrive in Mexico City amid festivities

The Bulls will play in the 27th NBA Mexico City Game on Thursday

The Bulls Tuesday didn't get the view of Mexico City that coach Jim Boylen promised.

"It's a really unique and cool place," Boylen told reporters in Chicago before the Bulls left for the Mexico City game. "I told the team that just the trip down there, it's like 20 million people live in that city. Just flying in there is an experience when you look out your window. When (the flight attendant) hits the bell for the 20-minute (warning), you're flying over the city. Then you land and you're still in the city. We don't have many cities like that here. I told them to look out their window and absorb the culture. It's one of the oldest cities in the world. There's a lot of history there. It's a real cool place. Food will be great. And hopefully we can play some hoops."

Boylen emphasized it's a business trip to win a game, but the Bulls were treated like visiting royalty in a welcoming country that too often has been unfairly maligned back in the United States.

Airport employees seemed thrilled to see the players as they disembarked in Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez in the eastern part of Mexico City. Employees asked for autographs and then asked players to pose for pictures or appear in selfies. The team then had a police escort for the 16-kilometer bus ride (about 10 miles) to the team hotel in the western part of the city.

The Chicago Bulls arrive in Mexico City

The city was bright and alive, the streets crowded and sidewalk restaurants active as the Bulls' bus whisked through the streets. The moon shone clearly as people strolled in light jackets.

It's a festive time in Mexico City, and not only because day time temperatures are in the mid 70s. Wednesday the Bulls are scheduled to practice at the Arena Ciudad de Mexico where they will play the Orlando Magic 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Mexico City is on the same time as Chicago. But it also is a public holiday and a day off for most with schools and most businesses closed.

It is the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is a time of public festivals and celebrations with Catholic pilgrims arriving from throughout Mexico. The principal celebration is at the Basilia de Santa Maria de Guadalupe, which is the second most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world after the Vatican. Estimates are that about 300,000 will crowd downtown Mexico City Wednesday for the feast day.

The legend is that a Virgin Mary appeared to a man named Juan Diego speaking in a native Aztec language and telling him to construct a shrine where Mexican pyramids had one stood. Church authorities were initially skeptical until the Virgin appeared again and her image appeared on his cloak. The church was built and the shroud still hangs in the Basilica.

It is considered a watershed moment for Christianity in the New World and inspired mass conversion to Catholicism in Mexico City. The Virgin became an important symbol of Mexico and was used in the Mexican War of Independence from Spain in the early 1800s as an inspirational battle banner.

But citizens are excited about the Bulls and Magic, too, we're sure.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver will be present for the 27th NBA game in Mexico City and eighth in the regular season for the NBA's Mexico City Games. The Magic is host and will also play the Utah Jazz later in the week. It will make 23 NBA teams to have played in Mexico City since the games began in 1992 with special amity and goodwill among a welcoming and warm people.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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