How the NBA is using virtual fans to make games feel normal

When the NBA playoffs start on Aug. 15, they’ll be missing one crucial element: home court advantage. All 16 teams that make the postseason will play on the same three courts, sans fans, deep inside a disinfected Disney World fortress known as the bubble.

To give the games some semblance of normalcy—for the players and for fans—the NBA is using every technical trick it can muster.

“We wanted to create an atmosphere that was as similar to a traditional NBA game as we could,” said Sara Zuckert, who took over the league’s Next Gen Telecast department just before the pandemic struck. “Nothing is going to replace 20,000 home fans cheering for their team, but we were looking at all of the opportunities to replicate that in the best possible way digitally.”

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