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How to Watch the NBA 2021

We break down which streaming services will get you every NBA game this season.

Best for hardcore NBA fans

Price: Starts at $84.99/mo.* plus cost of NBA League Pass
Channels: NBA TV, NBA Team Pass, ESPN, TNT, and ABC
Availability: In-market and out-of-market games

Best value

Price: Starts at $30/mo.**
Channels: ESPN, TNT, NBA League Pass, NBA Team Pass, and NBA TV
Availability: Out-of-market games, in-market games with bundled HD antenna

Best for cord-cutters

Price: $64.99/mo.
Channels: NBA TV, NBA League Pass, ESPN, TNT, and ABC
Availability: In-market and out-of-market games

Best for out-of-market games

Price: Starts at $28.99/mo.
Availability: 40 out-of-market games/week

Update 12/05/20: The NBA regular season kicks off Dec. 22 when the Golden State Warriors face off against the Brooklyn Nets.

Bottom line

If you want to watch your favorite NBA team, DISH guarantees that you’ll get every NBA game this season. The provider’s America’s Top 200 package includes the major channels for NBA games and lets you subscribe to NBA League Pass or NBA Team Pass for full season coverage.

For cord-cutters, Sling TV, YouTube TV, or a standalone League Pass subscription are the best way to watch nationally broadcast NBA games.

Best for hardcore NBA fans: DISH Network

Price: Starts at $84.99/mo.* plus cost of NBA League Pass
Channels: NBA TV, NBA Team Pass, ESPN, TNT, and ABC
Availability: In-market and out-of-market games

Pros

  • In-market and out-of-market coverage
  • 16 simultaneous streams

Cons

  • High price
  • 2-year commitment

DISH’s America’s Top 200 package comes with TNT, ESPN, NBA TV, and ABC, which covers every channel for major NBA game broadcasts. With a satellite company like DISH, there won’t be any glitches or buffering come game time. True, it’s expensive at $84.99 a month and requires a two-year contract, but the reliability and coverage might be worth it.

But even though DISH has awesome NBA coverage on its own, you’ll still run into blackouts and restrictions for out-of-market games unless you add NBA League Pass to your subscription.

Not convinced with DISH but not ready to cut the cord?

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NBA League Pass costs $199 a season for access to all out-of-market games. With League Pass and DISH’s cable channels, you’ll be able to watch every NBA game. DISH also offers NBA Team Pass, which gets you every game from one NBA team for $119.

We know it’s impossible to watch all that basketball live, but DISH has got you covered with its Hopper 3 DVR. It can record 16 shows simultaneously, which might sound a little extravagant right now, but ask again when there are multiple games tipping off at the same time every night.

Best value: Sling TV

Price: Starts at $30/mo.**
Channels: ESPN, TNT, NBA League Pass, NBA Team Pass, and NBA TV
Availability: Out-of-market games, in-market games with bundled HD antenna

Pros

  • Low price
  • Customizable packages
  • No commitment

Cons

  • Poor local channel coverage
  • DVR for extra cost

Sling TV is one of the most affordable streaming services on the market and one of the cheapest ways to watch NBA games. With packages starting at just $30 a month, rotating special deals, and a seven-day free trial, Sling TV is quite a steal.

While the price is a no-brainer, figuring out which package you want is a bit harder. The channel breakup isn’t always logical, so you’ll need to check each package for each channel you want.

We suggest you start by looking at the basic Orange package (which includes TNT and ESPN) for $30 a month, and consider adding the $10 Sports Extra package to get NBA TV. For full NBA coverage, you can also subscribe to League Pass or Team Pass within Sling TV for $28.99 or $17.99 per month, respectively.

Pro tip: If you’re willing to spend a little more, the Orange + Blue package has its perks. You get more channels and four included streams. It costs a little more at $45 a month, but it might be worth it to avoid fighting over what to watch.

One major downside of Sling TV is that it doesn’t have ABC. While it doesn’t seem that important right now, no ABC will kill you in the postseason. NBA Championship, anyone?

To be fair, Sling TV does try to make up for its lack of local offerings by giving you a free antenna with your subscription. Once this antenna is set up, you should be able to get your local ABC affiliate. It’s a serviceable workaround, but we still think it’d be nice if ABC was already included.

When it comes to extra features, Sling TV is a little bare-bones. The Orange package has just one stream, and the DVR costs extra. We do think the Game Finder feature is pretty cool—it finds every game currently available for streaming—but it doesn’t make up for only one stream.

Best for cord-cutters: YouTube TV

Price: $64.99/mo.
Channels: NBA TV, NBA League Pass, ESPN, TNT, and ABC
Availability: In-market and out-of-market games

Pros

  • Includes local channels
  • No hardware needed

Cons

  • Expensive for cord-cutters
  • No Team Pass access

YouTube TV is our top-rated livestreaming service, and for NBA fans, the provider has a lot to offer.

YouTube TV’s base package includes all of the channels you’ll need for major NBA broadcasts (ESPN, ABC, TNT, and NBA TV) and offers League Pass as an optional add-on for $28.99 per month. Unlike Sling TV, YouTube TV has in-app local channel support and doesn’t need an antenna or third-party provider.

You can record any games you miss on YouTube TV’s unlimited DVR, which saves recordings for up to nine months. The service also has a spoiler feature that can hide final scores or live previews before you start watching saved games.

But with all these features, YouTube TV is among the pricier cord-cutter replacements at $64.99 per month. The streaming service also lacks an in-app subscription option for Team Pass, which can save you money if you don’t want every single NBA game.

Best for out-of-market games: NBA League Pass

Price: Starts at $28.99/mo.
Availability: 40 out-of-market games/week

Pros

  • Access to out-of-market games

Cons

  • Bang for your buck
  • Subject to blackout restrictions
  • No extra channels

League Pass can get you access to every NBA game this season, but it’s not as simple as you might think.

The greatest benefit of the League Pass is live access to all games outside your local area. However, the service will not get you live access to your local team or nationally broadcasted games like the NBA Playoffs or NBA Finals. You can watch these games on demand three hours after they air, but that sure seems like a long wait to us.

NBA League Pass is a godsend if your favorite team is far away but kind of useless if you want to cheer on the local players right at tipoff. But you have another option: get League Pass and a VPN. That way, you can have the best of both worlds.

What is a VPN? A VPN is a virtual private network that allows you to mask the geographical location of the IP address you’re using.

If you just want to get all the games, then League Pass costs $28.99 per month If you want to upgrade to no commercials, you can jump up to $39.99 per month for the season. With a League Pass subscription, you can also watch games through the NBA mobile app.

Team Pass, which lets you get every non-blackout game for one team, offers savings at $17.99 per month. The NBA offers a Single Game Pass for $6.99 if you want to watch a specific game.

While League Pass only gets you the NBA, it does also offer on-demand access to some of the great basketball moments in history with their NBA Hardwood Classics program. You can relive great moments like Michael Jordan’s 63-point game vs. the Boston Celtics or Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game vs. the Toronto Raptors anytime, even during the off-season.

Final take

All the services we mentioned will get you access to plenty of NBA games—it just depends on your focus.

For us, DISH snags first place by offering the easiest way to get every game when you combine it with League Pass.

Sling TV offers cheaper options with pretty good NBA coverage, while YouTube TV includes extensive features in a pricier package.

And if you’re willing to combine League Pass with a VPN, you can get a pretty satisfactory setup come game time too.

It just comes down to what you want. But no matter which service you choose, we know it’ll have you ready for tip-off.

Best Ways to Watch the NBA FAQ

Where can I watch free NBA basketball games?

There are a couple ways to get free access to NBA games. You can start by taking advantage of free trial periods. Try out a few streaming services like Sling TV—you’ll get free access to the NBA for the five or seven days they offer.

The other kind of free way to get the NBA is to make a one-time purchase of an HD antenna (not free, we know) and then you can get locally broadcast NBA games and the postseason for free.

How can I watch NBA games without cable?

Yes, there are lots of options to watch NBA without cable. We suggest you take a look at Sling TV or YouTube TV. You can also get some NBA games with the help of an HD antenna. Simply purchase the HD antenna, hook it up, and you’ll be able to pick locally broadcast games over the air.

Sling or YouTube TV not right for you? Check out our guide to streaming sports for more options.

Does Hulu have NBA TV?

Hulu + Live TV does not offer NBA TV or League Pass. It does have ABC, ESPN, and TNT, though, so you can get some NBA coverage—just not the actual channel.

Can I watch NBA on Amazon Prime?

You can get live NBA games by adding League Pass to your prime subscription. It usually costs $199 a season, but will add the NBA games right to your Prime Video.

This will give you access to live out-of-market games and nationally or locally broadcast games three hours later.

Can I watch ESPN without cable?

Yes. You can get ESPN through multiple streaming services like Sling TV or YouTube TV.

Can I bypass game blackouts?

Yes, but let us first say, it’s probably easier to just get the local channel. If you want to bypass a games blackout, you’re going to need to sign up for a VPN.

A VPN, or virtual private network, connects your internet service with a different network. This allows your computer to connect to a different region where the blackout restriction does not apply.

Why are there blacked-out games on NBA TV?

Games are blacked out on NBA TV when they’re already being aired by a local channel in your area. Because the local channel has the rights to air the game, NBA TV has a blackout. For more information on blackouts, check out the NBA’s blackout page.

How can I watch the NBA All-Star Game?

The best way to stream all of All-Star Weekend is with the Sling TV Orange package for $30 per month or YouTube TV, which get you both ESPN and TNT for less than the typical cable package.

Data effective 12/05/20. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

*For 24 months with a 2-year agreement and eAutoPay
**Sports Extra adds $10 a month

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