3 Ways to Watch the NBA with NBA League Pass

We cover the NBA LEAGUE PASS, ESPN, TNT, and more in our how to watch (and stream) guide for pro basketball.

Pricing for the NBA LEAGUE PASS is almost the same across the board, so we recommend just picking the TV service you want.
Price:
$199
TV providers:
DIRECTV, DISH, Comcast, etc.
TV streaming :
Sling, DIRECTV NOW, fuboTV, PlayStation Vue

OVERVIEW

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.

Find the best TV providers in your area.

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 providerNBA LEAGUE PASSPrice*Details
DIRECTVYes (available as add-on)$199 (suggested retail)View Plans
DISHYes (available as add-on)$199 (suggested retail)View Plans
Comcast XfinityYes (available as add-on)$199 (suggested retail)View Plans
Verizon FiosYes (available as add-on)$199 (suggested retail)View Plans
SpectrumYes (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).

Streaming TV ProvidersESPNTNTABCPriceDetails
DIRECTV NOWYesYes Yes$35–70/mo.7-day Trial
Sling TVYes YesYes$20–45/mo.7-day Trial
fuboTVYesNoNo$35/mo.7-day trial
PlayStation VueYesYesYes$40–75/mo. 5-day Trial

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.

Little pin Little pin

Tip #1

Tip #1

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?

Little pin Little pin

Tip #2

Tip #2

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.

  • iPhone/iPad
  • Android Phone/Tablet
  • Amazon Fire TV/Tablet
  • Apple TV
  • Android TV
  • Roku
  • Chomecast
  • Fire TV Stick
  • PS3
  • PS4
  • 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.

Little pin Little pin

Tip #3

Tip #3

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.

Info box icon Info box icon

Q: What’s the cheapest way to legally watch NBA games?

Q: What’s the cheapest way to legally watch NBA games?

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.

  • Codylox Keeler

    Your tip #3 is an option they no longer offer

    • Denis_

      You’re right

  • Jennifer Kanaski

    How do I get the league pass to play via my fire tv stick? I have the NBA app on there but it keeps shutting off!

  • Jay Sully

    If i get league pass today(Nov 27,2017) will it last until Nov 27, 2018 or until the finals is over?

    • Vi M

      I think it’s til the season is over, because there are discounts in January. But don’t quote me on that.

  • lori fair

    We bought the okc thunder game on NBA league pass for 1 x for 6.99. Can’t get it to play. Any help would be great