Watching sports on television has never been easy, and the tilt toward streaming hasn’t made it easier or less confusing for NBA fans. The regular NBA season started, and with 30 teams each playing 82 games, that’s a lot of games to watch. Because broadcasters have patched together a Kafka-esque web of agreements, they’re spread across a range of television networks. Lucky for you, though, we’ve put together a guide to get you in front of the game no matter how you cut the cord to avoid paying for traditional cable or satellite TV.
Nationally televised games are played on four networks: ABC, ESPN (for which ESPN2 acts as a secondary station), TNT (for which TBS acts as a secondary station), and NBA TV. But unlike with NFL games, not all NBA games air on national networks. Many games air only on regional sports channels, such as Bally Sports and AT&T’s SportsNet. All of them strike coverage agreements that vary from team to team, region to region, and game to game so widely that it’s impossible to cover them all in this guide.
Look up the NBA schedule to find out which games are playing on which channels for the games you want to watch. Furthermore, games televised live on national channels are typically blackouts—that is, unavailable to watch—to viewers local to either team that’s playing. While you’re here, check out our Best Streaming Devices and Best TVs guides to get the most out of the season.
Updated November 2023: We’ve adjusted details such as the season’s start dates, pricing, and channel availability.
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Best for Out-of-Market Fans
If you’re following a favorite team outside your home television market, the easy pick is NBA League Pass for $100 per season. The basic League Pass package lets you watch any out-of-market games. Games in your local market will be blacked out, so if you’re a Brooklyn Nets fan and a game is at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, you’re out of luck. You also will miss out on any nationally televised games.
You can save $10 a season by choosing NBA Team Pass if you only want to watch one team’s games. League Pass Premium, for $150 a season, cuts out the ads and lets you watch on two devices simultaneously, whereas you’re restricted to streaming on one device at a time for the regular League Pass. Subscribing to any plan includes access to NBA TV as well.
Best Live TV Streaming Package
Sling TV comes in two different flavors, Blue and Orange, and each costs $40 per month with different channels. I recommend you buy Orange and skip Blue. Orange has TNT and TBS, like Blue, but also ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN3 exclusively. Neither includes ABC, but you can watch national ABC NBA games on Orange’s ESPN3 or via an antenna. You’ll have to spring for the $15-per-month NBA League Pass add-on if you want to watch NBA League Pass and NBA TV games.
If you don’t need League Pass out-of-market games, pick up just NBA TV as part of the $11-per-month Sports Extra add-on. This is the best package, as you can watch all nationally televised NBA games for as little as $51 a month. The downside is that the Bally Sports and SportsNet regional networks are missing from the channel lineup, so depending on where you are and the teams playing, you may not be able to watch them live.
YouTube TV for $73 per month is a wee bit more affordable than its closest competitors, FuboTV and Hulu + Live TV, and it includes ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, and NBA TV. It costs extra to enable a 4K Add-On though. If your only goal is viewing NBA games, Sling TV (with the League Pass add-on) will get you there cheaper, but YouTube TV is still a good choice if you’d watch its other, non-basketball channels that Sling TV Orange doesn’t carry. YouTube TV also lacks Bally Sports and SportsNet, so those in-market games are off the menu for subscribers.
DirecTV Stream for $65 per month doesn’t require a traditional DirecTV subscription and doesn’t lock you into any sort of contract. The entry tier, called Entertainment, gives you ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, TNT, and TBS. Stepping up to the $90-per-month Choice tier adds NBA TV. NBA League Pass can be added to any package for an additional subscription fee. DirecTV Stream’s big advantage over the other streamers is that if you step up to the top tiers, you get regional sports networks like Bally Sports and SportsNet, which will enable you to watch live in-market games otherwise unavailable via streaming. The details of this vary widely by market, so you’ll need to parse out the particulars for your team and town.
We think the above picks are the best options for most people, but here are some other ways you can catch up on basketball.
FuboTV ($75 per month) is the most overtly sports-focused of the live television streaming networks, but it falls on NBA coverage. The basic tier gets you access to ESPN, ESPN2, NBA TV, and ABC. NBA League Pass requires an additional subscription. FuboTV lost access to TNT and TBS in 2020 and hasn’t regained it as of yet. If you want to watch games on those two networks, you can subscribe to Max (formerly HBO Max) for $10 per month and add the new Bleacher Report Sports Add-On for another $10 per month. At that point, though, you’re paying $95 per month.