I Just Watched the NBA in VR, and It's a Game-Changer

This week, I watched the Minnesota Timberwolves take on the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio and their ridiculously strong fundamentals went on to win the game 122 to 114. Needless to say, it wasn't the most exciting basketball games I'd ever watched, but it might have been the most important.

I had courtside seats to watch Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili face off against Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns run up and down the court for 48 minutes. I was so close, there were many times I felt I could have reached out and touched Ginobili. But then I remembered, I was actually in my Harlem apartment with a Google Daydream VR headset with my boyfriend who was using a Samsung Gear VR. We were both livestreaming the game in virtual reality using NextVR.

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Currently available on mobile headsets, NextVR is a free VR livestreaming service that delivers high quality streams for some of your favorite professional sports including basketball, football, tennis and boxing. The company has also started livestreaming concerts. However, in order to watch NBA games, you'll also need a NBA League Pass subscription, which will set you back $99 to watch the VR content. But after watching my first VR game, I'm seriously considering ponying up the cash. 

“I was so close, there were many times I felt I could have reached out and touched Ginobili.”

After downloading the NextVR app onto my Google Pixel XL, I simply launched the app in Daydream and selected the game I wanted to watch. From then on, my view alternated from mid-court to just behind the backboard for an up-close-and-personal view of fouls being made and the subsequent free throws.

And since it's not an NBA game without commentary, NextVR has its own team to offer insights and conduct player interviews -- most of which consisted of players showing off their massive wingspans for the VR folks. However, courtside commentary was spot-on and a lot funnier than it had any reason to be.  Looking to either side can change your camera view, while glancing upward lets you check out some Jumbotron action. The score, quarter and remaining time sits just below the court.

VR livestreaming isn't a new concept, but NextVR is definitely one of the best in the business. The company films the events with super high-resolution cameras, which cuts down on much of the blurriness. The end result isn't 4K, but it's impressive nonetheless.

“Looking to either side can change your camera view, while glancing upward lets you check out some Jumbotron action.”

In fact, the game was so clear, I could actually see the faces of the people seated opposite my courtside view. Aside from some brief network issues on my end, the game streamed seamlessly. I did notice that my stream was a few seconds behind my boyfriend's, which made it a little hard to celebrate great plays at the same time.

Speaking of my love, while I definitely enjoyed the courtside view, I didn't get as much out of it as him. As a former D-1 college basketball player, he kept commenting on the differences between watching the action in VR versus our 48-inch television. He was blown away watching plays develop in front of him, which caused him to spew out a bunch of sports jargon that went way over my head.

Even though I'm more of a football fan than basketball, I'm definitely open to watching more games this way -- despite the $99 fee for the pleasure. However, as a fan of the "sweet science," I would love to use NextVR to watch a Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin match, a premiere boxing event that I could never afford to see in person.

Sherri L. Smith

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for Laptopmag.com since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.