Glance to your left and watch the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench sulk as Kevin Durant drains the go-ahead trey in Game 3. Glance to your right and Steph Curry is squatting, in controversial fashion, to celebrate Durant’s big bucket. Look behind you and you’ll see fans dazed with confusion and shock. And you never left home.
The NBA has partnered with NextVR to produce the first NBA Finals broadcast in virtual reality. Anyone with Google Daydream View or the Samsung GearVR headset, along with a compatible smartphone, can download the free NextVR app from the Google Play Store or the Oculus Store. The experience allows fans to see exclusive angles including the baseline, upper decks, tunnels to locker rooms and press conferences without ever stepping foot in the arena.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that a fan purchased two courtside tickets worth $133,000 for Game 5, which set an NBA record. Virtual reality allows you to have that same view of the game for a reasonable price. Obviously, you won’t get the full fan experience like the deafening roar of Oracle Arena after a Steph Curry three, the aroma of fresh popcorn, or interacting with other fans, but it offers a chance to see angles and sights you otherwise wouldn’t get on your HD TV.
Watching the NBA Finals through VR provides another perspective compared to what you see on the typical ABC broadcast. The emotion that spills out of each player after a big play is magnified. You can see the dejected faces of LeBron James and Kevin Love on an inbounds after the Warriors put the game out of reach in Game 2. You’ll notice the minor details like players joking on the bench or the trash talk that didn’t escalate into an altercation.
As a fan, I would definitely try out this experience at least once. During the long NBA season, it could be refreshing to get a different look of the game. But it does have its flaws. You can be easily distracted because there’s so much going on in the arena. In addition, if you don’t use the best headphones, external noises will contribute to that distraction. Not to mention, you can’t see the entire court through the glasses, so there’s not much you can dissect from viewing half of the floor.
Lisa Beachy, NextVR director of public relations, said the company will continue to improve the fan experience and may add some new features like courtside angles near the bench, which could alleviate the aforementioned court view problem.
But the bottom line is, if you’re an avid NBA fan and looking to enhance your fan experience, this is your next best option if you can’t make it to the game.