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Best Ways to Watch the NBA



DISH

Best for hard-core fans

  • Starts at $79.99/mo.* plus cost of NBA League Pass
  • In-market and out-of-market games
  • NBA TV, ESPN, TNT, and ABC

PlayStation Vue

Best for cord-cutters

  • $49.99/mo.
  • ABC, ESPN, and TNT, NBA TV
  • Unlimited cloud DVR

Sling TV

Best value

Sling TV | 2019’s Best Live TV Streaming Services
  • $25/mo.**
  • ESPN, TNT, and NBA TV
  • Free HD antenna available

Data effective 11/1/19. 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

The bottom line

With the addition of NBA League Pass, DISH essentially guarantees you get every NBA game this season. That said, we know most basketball fans are ok missing a few of the 1,230 games between October and April.

If you’re looking for more focused coverage, PlayStation Vue will still give you access to locally or nationally broadcasted games and comes rolled up in a convenient cord-cutting package. If either of these sounds good, scroll down to find out the pros and cons of the service or others we think might fit the bill.

#1 DISH with NBA League Pass

Pros

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

Cons

  • High price
  • 2-year commitment

We’re sure you already know the channels you need to watch all the NBA action, but just in case, we’ll review: you’re going to want TNT, ESPN, NBA TV, ABC, and TBS.

Luckily, DISH’s America’s Top 200 package comes with all of these included. Plus, with a satellite company like DISH, you get the relief that there won’t be any glitches or buffering come gametime. True, it’s expensive at $79.99 a month and requires a two-year contract, but the reliability and coverage might be worth it.

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

NBA League Pass costs $28.99 a month or $199 a season for access to all out-of-market games. Basically, anything that DISH doesn’t get you, NBA League Pass will. Combined, you should get every game.

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. Yes, you read that right—16. It sounds a little extravagant right now, but ask again when there are 3–4 games tipping off at the same time night in and night out.

In short, if the maximum amount of basketball is your game, then DISH with NBA League Pass sinks one for the win.

#2 PlayStation Vue

Best for cord-cutters

Pros

  • Included unlimited cloud DVR
  • No commitment

Cons

  • Limited out-of-market games

PlayStation Vue is our top cord-cutting suggestion because it’s reasonably priced with some awesome features and absolutely no commitment.

To start, we should clear up that you don’t need a PlayStation console to use PlayStation Vue. It works on almost every streaming device on the market. If you’re worried about yours in particular, you can always check it on the compatibility page, but trust us, you’re probably covered.

While PlayStation Vue’s basic package starts at $49.99 a month, we suggest you upgrade to the slightly more expensive Core package. For $54.99 a month, the Core package includes TNT, NBA TV, TBS, ESPN, and ABC. Like with all streaming services, your ABC access does depend on your location, so check your local channel coverage before signing up.

While we love the NBA coverage, it’s PlayStation Vue’s included features that really made us fall for this service. PlayStation Vue includes an unlimited DVR and five simultaneous streams. Plus, the Multi-View feature (available only on Apple TV or PS4) lets you watch multiple games at once, which we find absolutely necessary on most Friday nights.

If you’re still not sure, PlayStation Vue lets you try out the system with its free five-day trial. Go ahead and sign up the first week of the season (Oct 22nd) and test it out.

#3 Sling TV

Best value

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. With packages starting at just $25 a month and a current offer of an additional 40% off the first month, 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, ESPN, and TBS for $25 a month, and consider adding the $10 Sports Extra package to get NBA TV.

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 locally broadcasted ABC. 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.

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 $40 a month, but it might be worth it to avoid fighting over what to watch.

All in all, Sling TV is a pretty good, affordable way to get your NBA team’s games. You can even try out Sling TV’s seven-day free trial to see if it’s right for you.

Dark horse: NBA League Pass

Pros

  • Access to out-of-market games

Cons

  • High cost
  • No extra channels

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

Basically, NBA League Pass is a godsend if your favorite team is far away and 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.

If you just want to get all the games, then NBA League Pass costs $28.99 a month or $199 for the entire season. If you want to upgrade to no commercials, you can jump up to $39.99 a month or $249.99 for the season.

There are also some other plan options like the Team Pass or Single Game Pass that might be worth checking out.

While NBA 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.

If you’re looking for free stuff, there’s some bad news: as of right now, we don’t see a free trial, but there’s been one in past seasons so it’s probably coming. We’ll let you know when we find it.

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 only way to get all games when you combine it with the NBA League Pass, but PlayStation Vue and Sling TV offer cheaper options with pretty good NBA coverage. And if you’re willing to combine NBA 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 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 streaming services, like PlayStation Vue or 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 broadcasted NBA games and the postseason for free.

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 PlayStation Vue for the best streaming service or Sling TV for the cheapest. Both will get you the channels you need so you can watch the NBA games you crave. 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 broadcasted games over the air.

Does Hulu have NBA TV?

Hulu with Live TV does not offer NBA TV. It does have ABC, EPSN, 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 the NBA League Pass to your prime subscription. It 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 broadcasted games three hours later.

Can I watch ESPN without cable?

Yes. You can get ESPN through multiple streaming services like PlayStation Vue or Sling 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, essentially 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.

About the Author

Whitney Hansen is a freelance writer and English teacher. She’s been featured on Howtowatch.com and CableTV.com and can binge-watch Friends and baking competitions with the best of them. If you don’t find her watching, then she’ll be outside hiking, running, or rock climbing.

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