When the NBA resumes the 2019-2020 season next week, there won't be any fans in the stands at the games -- no physically, at least. With the COVID-19 pandemic still going on, the NBA's only chance to resume the season was to have teams fly down to Orlando, Florida, to participate in practices and games in what's pretty much a bubble.
Therefore, fans cannot attend games to cheer their team on. The NBA didn't want a fan-less gym to be the end-all-be-all for the situation, though. So they teamed up with Microsoft to find a way to have fans cheer their team on virtually to offer NBA teams the most realistic game experience they can get down in the bubble.
"The NBA is using this new Microsoft Teams mode combined with 17-foot tall LED screens that will wrap around basketball arenas to put fans back next to players. Fans will be able to react in real-time, and players will be able to see and hear those reactions. These virtual stands will include more than 300 fans using Together Mode to sit side by side with each other virtually in Microsoft Teams. Fans will be able to watch a live feed of the game within Teams alongside a view of each other." via The Verge.
Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons likes the idea -- but he wants to make sure the NBA gets its right when it comes to Philly fans. "They better put some boos in there for us," Simmons said, following the Sixers' first scrimmage against the Memphis Grizzlies.
"If we're not playing hard, we want to hear those boos. You can't put this here and not have the fans screaming and kind of replicate Sixers fans -- we're one of a kind. [The NBA] will do their best, but there's nothing like playing at home at Wells Fargo [Center]."
Simmons has had a love-hate relationship with Philly fans throughout his first few seasons with the Sixers. While the energy of the crowd helps motivate Simmons and the Sixers to play on another level, the two-time All-Star admitted earlier this season that he hates when Sixers fans boo the home team.
At the same time, though, Simmons uses negative energy as motivation to want to do better. So if and when the 76ers are struggling down in Florida, he wants the NBA to broadcast the boo birds as knows it can help motivate Philly to get back on track.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_