In early March at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, after the Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks in one of the final NBA games before COVID put the season on hold, a reporter asked LeBron James how he felt about potentially continuing the season without fans. “I ain’t playin,” he bluntly said.
That sentiment is at the heart of an NBA innovation that has brought basketball fans literally into the game after the league restarted its 2019-2020 season and now prepares for the playoffs inside the "Orlando Bubble" at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World Florida. The association teamed up with Microsoft, Michelob Ultra and the beer brand’s agency partner FCB New York to create “Michelob Ultra Courtside,” a totally virtual experience whereby fans are able to sit together in the arena during NBA games
Via massive digital screens and Microsoft tech, during each game,300 audience members appear surrounding the court, rooting for their teams. It’s just one part of a suite of new tech offerings that the NBA has incorporated into games to help enhance audience experience under current restrictions. Here, we break down the idea and how it came together.