With the finals set to take place this Wednesday, September 30th, wow how time moves fast, the rightful champion of the 2019-2020 season will soon lift the Larry O’Brien trophy. We've seen upsets take place, historic scoring outings occur on numerous occasions, and legendary records fall; however, you get the sense that the best is yet to come.
We've seen that during the season's restart, something that has never happened before, is the virtual fan component to the game. With the games held fan-less due to the state of the world today, the Union and League made it a priority to give the players their true sixth man, and the fans an opportunity to impact their favorite teams or player's hunt for a title.
The Michelob Ultra Courtside fan board surrounds the courts down in the NBA Campus at Walt Disney Resort, as fans from all over the world can support their favorite players and teams virtually. It may not be the same as 19,000 screaming fans in the arena during an intense playoff game, but it still provides some sense of feeling like you're playing at home, especially when the boards bring up the home team's graphics for their players.
You never know who you're going to see on the virtual screen. Whether it's fan's dogs on the big screen to celebrities like Lil Wayne and Dwyane Wade in the crowd, the virtual fan experience has provided us endless moments that give some sense of normalcy for the players on the floor and the fans at home watching.
Inky Son, THINK450's very own VP of Licensing, cheered on her Indiana Pacers as a virtual fan during the season's restart. While she is used to interacting with fans in the arena of a high profile playoff game, Son still appreciated the ability to cheer on her favorite players with other fans, only this time virtually.
"Interacting with other fans in the section was pretty fun, especially for the games that I joined where I had friends from other parts of the country join in as well. It was a fun way to cheer on the team with your friends virtually! It was also fun to feature my dog in my seat as well as trying to look for yourself on TV," Son said in response to what her favorite part as a virtual fan was.
Inky Son with her Dog in the second row, third over from the left
Being able to cheer on your team with fans that root for the same team as you is a crucial component to supporting your team, even when it's a furry four-legged friend representing you.
We all see the finished product on our screens, whether it be a high-flying dunk by LeBron James or an excited fan reacting to said dunk on the big-screen, but nothing can get done without the behind-the-scenes work put in by all sides.
In terms of getting set-up for her virtual fan experience, Son had this to say: "we had to sign up for Microsoft Teams, and we were let into the section by the moderator of each section. The technology was great. You could see yourself in your seat along with the others in your section and do a split screen of the live game on the other side."
The work put in to make all ends of the season restart operate successfully has not gone unnoticed. Whether it's the daily testing for COVID-19, the food the players and staff receive, or the people working behind the scenes to provide the fans an experience to support their team, the resumption of play has come to fruition through hard work and dedication.
In terms of what's to come down the line for virtual fandom, Son had this to say: "I don't think this will ever replace the experience of going to the arena to watch a game in person, but this was a great alternative for the times we are living in right now. It was really engaging and super fun!"
Nothing can and will compare to the sound of a loud arena when a dagger three-pointer is made in the fourth quarter. Still, the virtual fan experience that has been provided to fans today has done a great job replacing the typical in-arena experience by providing an "engaging and super fun" virtual experience for anyone.
And if you're lucky, the ball could bounce in your direction while you're on the big screen, allowing the whole world to see you cheer on your team from home - Son had that luck on numerous occasions.
"I could always see myself in the background when the ball was being brought up the court." Make sure to keep a lookout for your friends and family during the finals when the players dive for a loose ball on the sideline - you don't know who you may see up there.