SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – With no fans in the stands, the NBA is harnessing technology like never before. Playing in the Orlando Bubble is a whole new game for the basketball players and their fans.
Jake Glenn could not wait to watch the NBA playoffs.
“I’m one of the biggest NBA fans you’ll meet. I absolutely love it,” Glenn said.
The college student is glued to the games held in quarantine in Orlando with no fans in the stands.
“I’m just really impressed with what the NBA has done with its virtual fan experience,” he reflected.
It’s not the same – no roaring crowds in a packed arena – but the NBA spent months developing an alternative, according to Sara Zuckert, head of Next Gen Telecast.
“We have been working closely on trying to replicate the home court feel as much as possible,” said Zuckert.
The NBA app offers live games and updates.
And cameras rolling on railings on the sidelines catch the action from new angles for those watching through NBA TV, League Pass, and ESPN.
“It’s another option for fans to really see the game and feel the game in a different way,” Zuckert explained.
And fans can win the chance to get their photos and videos seen on social media and on giant screens in the arena.
“So fans appear as if they’re in virtual seats and those fans are live watching at home,” Zuckert added.
And to mimic applause, you can “tap to cheer.”
Glenn taps a button on the app, releasing on the tablet of his screen icons showing the team’s jersey.
“It’s not the full-on hollering at a basketball player, but it’s pretty cool for me to get out there and do something interactive with the game,” Glenn said.
When fans tap on the “cheer” button in the NBA app or tweet with the team’s hashtag, players like Dallas Mavericks’ point guard Delon Wright can look up at the huge screens.
They can see the total number cheering and virtual fans dressed in their team’s colors.
“It is cool to see fans’ faces on the screen. It’s better than just being in the gym by ourselves,” said Wright.
Still, LeBron James says he misses feeding off his Laker fans’ frenzy.
“It’s a weird dynamic,” James said. “You have to really love basketball to be here because there’s no extra motivation, as far as excitement from the crowd.”
So to the fans, he said, “I miss you guys. I hope someday we can get back to that interaction.”
And many fans agree that would be something to cheer about.