NBA Virtual Fans

Added to the Museum of Data by Hugh Knapp on Monday, November 14, 2022. Museum of Data Collection ID: 1338.

Public description: In response to COVID-19, the NBA held games in what they coined as 'The Bubble'. Located in a building in Disney World, Florida, The Bubble became the a handful of basketball courts to host a variety of NBA games with strict COVID testing and safety precautions. Because the doors were closed to public and the game had no live reactions from a massive audience, the NBA partnered with Microsoft Teams and Michelob Ultra to create a fan experience in which fans from each team could virtually attend these games and be seen on the side of the court. Fans would purchase tickets marketed by Michelob Ultra and join a Microsoft Teams event where they would be required to be sport some kind of team regalia to ensure the screens in the arena were showing ride-or-die fans to the TV audience and players on the court. This object, or rather network of systems, is situated in the Museum of Data as livestream technology, corporate partnerships including tech and beer, and large screens seemingly transformed a previously considered arena of 'natural' rowdiness, noise, excitement, and support for the home team into a highly choreographed space of audience involvement. For example, some teams requested that audience noise be 'piped into' the arena to simulate what their home court sounded like. Other teams requested more silence when their team had the ball. In response to this pandemic, the NBA adapted to push the game forward and involved the fans in a new way. Some fans are calling for The Bubble to come back as it changed the performances on the court. For example, free throw percentages were higher, offenses were more productive, players had better depth perception in this small arena, and referees could make more accurate calls because they could hear the contact better between players. However, at the same time, fans could see how living in the bubble was taking a toll on the players mentally. The bubble changed how TV broadcasts happened and offered a more intimate viewing experience of players. All-star Paul George talked about the mental toll staying in the bubble was and Jamal Murray collapsed onto the floor in tears after a stellar 50-point performance in honour of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The built environment dressed with a highly choreographed fan experience changed the game, the players, and how we engage with basketball.

Materials used: Pixels, TV, Live-streaming, Sound, Microsoft Teams

Credit: I would broadly name the creator of this object as 'The NBA' as the 'owner' of this experience. The NBA and Microsoft signed a long term partnership earlier that year. To name more collaborators, I assume it's a joint effort between NBA officials and arena technicians, a digital consulting agency, a team from Microsoft, a team from Michelob Ultra, TV broadcasters, and a team from Disney World. My research: How Virtual Fans Found Their Seats at NBA Season Restart: The NBA Bubble was Good: Jamal Murray Tearful Tribute:

Size: 17 foot tall LCD panels in the arena, global engagement with livestream technology and TV broadcasting, Disney World buildings that players stayed in.

Creation date: 2020/07/09 00:00:00

Tags: 8, 14

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