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NBA streaming: Best ways to watch the 2021 basketball season live online without cable

NBA streaming: Best ways to watch the 2021 basketball season live online without cable


LeBron James and the Lakers will be looking to repeat as NBA champions in 2021. 

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

After finishing last season in a bubble in Disney World, where the Los Angeles Lakers won their 17th title, teams across the league are now playing the 2021 regular season in their respective home arenas, some even with fans. And you don’t need cable TV to watch the games live. For cord-cutters who want to save some money, your best bet is to subscribe to a live TV streaming service. Unfortunately, that’s where things get confusing. 

The sheer number of channels that carry live games — local regional sports networks like MSG in New York and Spectrum SportsNet in LA, as well as the national feeds of ABC, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT — means you’ll either have to get a relatively expensive service or make a compromise and miss some games every week. The only way to get a full basketball experience is to have a whole litany of channels from your TV provider.

While it’s not as simple as it should be, we’re going to try and make it a bit easier. Here are our recommendations for the best way to watch the NBA without cable.

Read more: YouTube TV vs. Hulu vs. Sling TV vs. Philo vs. FuboTV: 100 channels compared

Best for everything: AT&T TV Choice ($85 per month)


Sarah Tew/CNET

When it comes to streaming all your local basketball games, the $85 per month Choice package on AT&T TV is the best option for most people. It has all of the national channels — ABC, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT — and it’s the streaming service with the most regional sports networks. 

Unlike the NFL, which largely broadcasts its local games on Fox or CBS (with primetime games on NBC, ESPN and the NFL Network) most NBA games air on a local sports network. For the Knicks in New York it’s MSG, for the Lakers in Los Angeles it’s Spectrum SportsNet and for the Bucks in Milwaukee it’s Fox Sports Wisconsin. The problem is that your local RSN probably isn’t carried by every live TV streaming service.

At $85 per month for the Choice package, AT&T TV is far from cheap, and for some it could be pricier than getting a traditional cable package bundled in with your home internet — especially since, like every such service, you’ll need home internet to watch it anyway.

That said, it is another alternative that gives you a way to watch your home team’s regional sports network. In the New York area it’s the only provider that carries both MSG (Knicks) and the YES Network (Brooklyn Nets); in Los Angeles it has Spectrum Sportsnet (Lakers) and Fox Sports Prime Ticket (Clippers); and in Milwaukee it offers Fox Sports Wisconsin (Bucks). 

AT&T TV also has some of the Comcast-owned regional sports networks including NBC Sports Boston (Celtics) and Bay Area (Warriors). You can check if your sports network is available in your ZIP code here

Like with YouTube TV, FuboTV and others there is no contract required for AT&T TV, and you no longer need any special boxes or equipment. You can have streams running on up to three devices at once, with AT&T TV apps available on iOS, iPad OS and Android phones and tablets as well as Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TVs. The telecom giant also sells an Android TV-powered streaming box. 

AT&T also includes 20 hours of DVR and bundles in HBO Max with the purchase of the AT&T TV Choice package, normally $15 per month.

Best for national games: YouTube TV ($65)


YouTube TV is the pick for those willing to sacrifice their local sports network. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The second-best option for NBA fans is YouTube TV. At $65 per month, a regular YouTube TV subscription checks many of the NBA channel boxes including having all of the major stations — ABC, ESPN and TNT — as well as NBA TV. The problem? It lacks most regional sports networks.

YouTube TV allows for three simultaneous streams, with YouTube offering unlimited cloud DVR. It is widely available too, with apps on iOS and Android, the web and on TVs through Roku, Chromecast, Android TV, Apple TV and Fire TV.

The rest: FuboTV, Hulu Live and Sling TV

Other options like FuboTV’s Family plan or Hulu with Live TV are fine, but they have compromises. Fubo has some regional networks like MSG in New York, but it lacks TNT and requires a $6 per month Extra add-on to get NBA TV, making the total price $71 per month. 

Hulu with Live TV, which now also costs $65 per month, similarly has some regional channels, particularly the NBC Sports-owned ones, as well as TNT, ESPN and ABC. But it lacks NBA TV and the regional sports channels owned by Charter (Spectrum Sportsnet) and Sinclair (the Fox Sports networks and YES Network). 

Sling TV’s Orange plan for $30 a month gets you ESPN and TNT, but you lose out on ABC and regional sports networks, and you’ll need to pay an extra $15 per month to get NBA TV. You also only have 10 hours of DVR and can only stream on one device at a time. 

The chart below sums it all up. The base price is listed after the service name, while a dollar sign indicates that the channel is available for an additional fee. For simplicity, we did not include the regional sports networks as those will vary by ZIP code. 

NBA national channels on live TV services compared

Channel Sling Orange ($30) Hulu with Live TV ($65) AT&T TV Choice ($85) YouTube TV ($65) FuboTV ($65)
ABC No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPN Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
TNT Yes Yes Yes Yes No
NBA TV $ No Yes Yes $

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What about NBA League Pass? 

NBA League Pass offers the entire NBA slate for $199 for the season, with commercials and one device, or $249 for the season with in-arena feeds instead of commercials and the ability to watch on two devices at once. Those interested in following only a single team can buy a “Team Pass” for $119 for the season. 

While this is an enticing option for fans who want to watch-out-of-market games for the 2020-21 season, it doesn’t help with rooting for your home team. Local games as well as those broadcast nationally are blacked out, so if you’re in New York and want to watch Kevin Durant and the Nets take on the Warriors, odds are it won’t be accessible on League Pass. 

NBA TV is also not included and runs an extra $60 if you want to be able to watch games on that network. 

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