The 2017–2018 NBA season starts October 17, and if you want to watch every basketball game—more than 1200 total in the regular season—you’ll need to get your TV ready. The easiest way to follow your favorite team and watch (almost) every NBA game is the NBA LEAGUE PASS (suggested retail is $199).
If you’re interested in alternatives, you might want to check out getting ESPN, TNT, and ABC through a live TV streaming service like Sling TV ($20–45 per month), DIRECTV NOW ($35–70 per month), or fuboTV ($35 per month). We’ve tried to include every possible way to keep up with the 2017–2018 NBA season, so check them out below.
Before you read any further, here’s a quick rundown of the three best ways to watch the NBA.
1. NBA LEAGUE PASS TV (via your TV service)
Pricing for the NBA LEAGUE PASS is almost the same across the board, so we recommend just picking the TV service you want. If you need help deciding, you can check out our TV service reviews.
|TV provider||NBA LEAGUE PASS||Price*||Details|
|DIRECTV||Yes (available as add-on)||$199 (suggested retail)||View Plans|
|DISH||Yes (available as add-on)||$199 (suggested retail)||View Plans|
|Comcast Xfinity||Yes (available as add-on)||$199 (suggested retail)||View Plans|
|Verizon Fios||Yes (available as add-on)||$199 (suggested retail)||View Plans|
|Spectrum||Yes (available as add-on)||$199 (suggested retail)||View Plans|
*Suggested retail price for 2016. We’ll update pricing when the NBA LEAGUE PASS is released this fall.
2. NBA LEAGUE PASS Digital (digital only)
NBA LEAGUE PASS Digital and NBA LEAGUE PASS TV are not the same. The digital pass can be purchased online, and you can watch games via the NBA app and other streaming devices (Apple TV, iPhone, Android devices, etc.). NBA LEAGUE PASS TV, on the other hand, is purchased from a TV provider and delivered straight to your TV (though it includes digital access as well).
3. Stream (watch) NBA games on ESPN, TNT, and ABC
Streaming TV doesn’t offer NBA LEAGUE PASS, but it does have all the major networks that are contracted to air NBA games (ESPN, TNT, and ABC).
What is NBA LEAGUE PASS?
NBA LEAGUE PASS is a subscription available from TV providers that lets you watch “select” preseason and regular season NBA games. But “select” means you can watch certain games only in certain locations. Seems confusing, right? When you visit the NBA LEAGUE PASS website, it will tell you what games you can’t watch.
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Beware the “blackout.” Depending on where you live, you may be “unable to view live, nationally broadcast games or live local team broadcast games.”
For example, if you live in New York, you can’t watch live Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks games. If you’re a Nets fan living outside of New York, you won’t be blocked. The NBA refers to these blocks as “blackouts,” and if you’re thinking of getting the NBA LEAGUE PASS for your local team, you better double-check the fine print because you might be in the dark.
There are a few reasons for blackouts, but they all boil down to money (blackouts protect the interests of local broadcasters, owners want more butts in seats at the game, etc.).
What can I watch the NBA LEAGUE PASS on?
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With the NBA LEAGUE PASS, blackout games are available three hours after they end. Most games are broadcast during evening hours, so you might not mind if you’re a serious night owl.
The NBA LEAGUE PASS works on the following devices.
- Android Phone/Tablet
- Amazon Fire TV/Tablet
- Apple TV
- Android TV
- Fire TV Stick
- Xbox One
More options for the NBA LEAGUE PASS
It’s been around for years, but recently the NBA made some changes to its NBA LEAGUE PASS options. For example, you can get an NBA Team Pass.
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If you’re an audiophile, it’s good to know you don’t have to put up with blackouts. You can listen to any game at at any time with the audio season pass, and it’s only $9.99 (about the price of nachos at a live basketball game). You just sign up and log on to NBA.com to listen.
The NBA Team Pass lets you get all the games for one team—instead of all teams like you get with the NBA LEAGUE PASS—at a price that’s nearly half of the NBA LEAGUE PASS. If you’re in Omaha and you want to watch the Lakers and save some money, the NBA Team Pass might be too appealing to pass up. But like the NBA LEAGUE PASS, the NBA Team Pass is subject to blackouts, so watch out for that still.
If you just want to catch a game here and there, you can also check out the NBA Single Game option. It’s what it sounds like—you can purchase a single game for $6.99. Blackouts still apply, but if you don’t want to miss out on a big matchup game, the NBA Single Game is an excellent option.
How to stream games without NBA LEAGUE PASS or cable
If dropping $200 for NBA LEAGUE PASS isn’t an option, you can always get by with watching NBA games on a live TV streaming service such as DIRECTV NOW, Sling TV, or fuboTV. Just make sure the TV plan you select includes ESPN, TNT, and ABC (fuboTV carries only ESPN). Those three networks have contracts with the NBA to televise most—if not all—of the biggest games during the NBA season.
Q: What’s the cheapest way to legally watch NBA games?
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The cheapest way to watch the NBA is Sling TV’s Orange plan, which costs $20 a month and includes TNT and ESPN. You won’t get ABC, but in select locations you can add it for an extra $5 a month or get a TV antenna for less than $30.
Recap—how to get the NBA on TV
If you get the NBA LEAGUE PASS or a TV service (streaming or cable) with ESPN, TNT, and ABC, it’s nearly impossible to miss an NBA game. If a game does get blacked out, you should be able to watch it through a local channel (e.g., an ABC affiliate).
As for us, we’ll probably tune in to upcoming games with Sling TV’s Orange plan, because it’s so much cheaper than the NBA LEAGUE PASS. But we realize for the NBA diehards, $199 is a small price to pay compared to season tickets.
As always, if there’s something we missed or you want to know more, leave us a comment below.