Fans continue to be an integral part of the NBA despite the season restart being played without spectators as the league provided them an avenue to cheer for their favorite teams and players in real time.
The NBA partnered with Microsoft Teams to launch Together Mode, which allows fans to be put in 17-foot LED screens surrounding the courts in the bubble in Orlando, Florida to show their support.
"[P]layers who are at the free throw line, they will see fans in the stands through the Microsoft Teams Together Mode," said NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.
"There will be live fans. They will be able to see them. They will be cheering."
Aside from fans, players' family members have reserved virtual seats behind the team bench, just like in a normal NBA game.
"We are trying to create a sense of familiarity for the players."
"It is going to be different than having 15,000 or 20,000 fans in the arena, but our players are world-class athletes and they will adjust to that environment," Tatum said.
A perk fans attending the games will enjoy is the chance of seating beside a former NBA player – although just virtually.
In the opening day of the season restart, Chris Bosh showed up in the stands to watch his former Miami Heat teammate LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers escape the Los Angeles Clippers.
Dallas Mavericks icon Dirk Nowitzki was also spotted in the screens, but clearer photos showed it was just a cutout of him with his tongue out.
The virtual seats, though, are up for grabs only for USA residents who are at least 21 years old and they can try their luck by going to ultracourtside.com, with the winners selected through a sweepstakes draw.
For international fans not able to score virtual seats, Tatum said the NBA will tap influencers to call games on League Pass in their language.
"I think this level of customization for the fan, particularly internationally, with languages, camera angles, influencers, those are the kinds of things that you re going to see [on] League Pass," Tatum said.
This is in addition to different camera angles that replicate fans' experience of watching games where they used to seat in the arena.
"We have been very focused on how fans engage with our game and we have worked with our broadcast and technology partners to develop in-venue and broadcast enhancements." – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.