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NBA streaming: How to watch the 2021 basketball season live without cable

NBA streaming: How to watch the 2021 basketball season live without cable


LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will be looking to repeat as NBA champions. 

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Despite only wrapping up in October — with the Lakers winning their 17th title — the NBA is back for yet another season. Tip-off of the regular season is set for Dec. 22 in what is currently scheduled to be 72 games for each team, running until May 16. 

Unlike the conclusion to last year’s campaign, which took place inside a bubble at Disney World to minimize exposure to the coronavirus, the league’s 30 teams are gearing up to begin this year in their respective home arenas. Some teams even have plans for fans in the stands, though with COVID-19 still on the rise this winter, plenty of questions remain for what this version of the NBA season will look like. 

Luckily for fans at home, there are plenty of ways to watch the NBA, including for cord-cutters who want to save some money. If you don’t have cable or another traditional TV subscription, your best bet is to subscribe to a live TV streaming service. That’s where things get confusing. The sheer number of channels that carry live games — local regional sports networks, 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 vs. AT&T TV Now: 100 channels compared

Best for everything: AT&T TV Now Max ($80)


AT&T TV Now is the best cord-cutting option for fans looking to watch their local teams. 


When it comes to streaming all your local basketball games, the $80 per month Max version of AT&T TV Now is the best option for most people. It has most of the national channels — ABC, ESPN and TNT — and while it lacks NBA TV, 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 $80 per month AT&T TV Now 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 Now 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 Now and you don’t need any special boxes or equipment. You can have streams running on up to three devices at once, with AT&T TV Now 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. 

AT&T also includes 500 hours of DVR and bundles in HBO Max with the purchase of the AT&T TV Now Max package, normally $15 per month.

Read more: Best TVs for 2020

Best for national games: YouTube TV ($65)


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

As with the NFL, the best option for most people is YouTube TV so long as you’re OK not having your local sports network.

At $65 per month each, 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. 

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.

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 will raise its price to $65 per month starting on Dec. 18, 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, regional sports networks and 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 Now Max ($80) YouTube TV ($65) FuboTV ($65)
ABC No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPN Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
TNT Yes No No 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. 

Read more: Best soundbars for 2020

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