My Experience as a Virtual Fan

The "NBA Virtual Fan Experience" brings a new spin on watching basketball.

Junior+Anthony+Rubek+joins+other+virtual+fans+to+watch+the+Nuggets+vs.+Clippers+game+on+Saturday%2C+September+5.

Anthony Rubek

Junior Anthony Rubek joins other virtual fans to watch the Nuggets vs. Clippers game on Saturday, September 5.

Anthony Rubek, Sports Editor

The NBA restart has garnered mostly positive reactions from fans of the sport as the league’s top teams battle for a chance at the title in Orlando, Florida. The NBA has tried to recreate many aspects of the stadium experience that COVID-19 has taken away, with one of the main components being the fans.

The NBA is using fans from around the world as virtual fans at these games, meaning their faces would be on screens displayed all around the courts when the teams play. As people watch these games and see these people they may wonder: What is it like being a virtual fan?

After weeks of registering for tickets on 1iota.com, I was finally accepted to be a virtual fan for last Saturday’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers.

Around an hour and a half before the game started, I checked in to 1iota.com and they gave me a unique username and password to get into Microsoft Teams. Once I signed in, I joined my section which featured 32 other people.

I then learned that my section was the “seat-filler group” which meant that when seats opened up in other sections, the moderators could tell me to leave that section and join the other one. There were also more people than seats in the seat-filler group which meant that the fans would have to do rotations by quarter in order so everyone could have a chance to be in a seat.

Right before tip-off, I was told to switch sections. I joined the new section but there were some difficulties as I couldn’t see the seats at all and could only see the game. After minutes of trying to fix these problems, I was told it was best for me just to log out of Microsoft Teams and log back in. I did so and it put me back with the seat-filler group which made me pretty annoyed.

After not being in a seat for the first quarter, I was able to get a spot for the second quarter. It was really cool since you could see and talk to the rest of your section. There were about an even amount of Nuggets and Clippers fans in my section and I cheered for Denver, but my main hope was just to witness a good game. The game itself was a little laggy and froze every once in a while but I expected that.

The real highlight of the experience was the interactions I had with the other virtual fans. After multiple attempts, I was able to virtually high five the guy sitting next to me. After that he started throwing virtual punches and it looked like we were fighting. 

I was able to secure a seat for the entire second half. Highlights included multiple fans bringing their pets on the screen, a man wearing a bunny mask, and a guy successfully getting the whole section to do the wave.

Towards the end of the third quarter I started to feel really tired and I think that’s because I have been sitting down looking at a computer screen for the past four and a half hours.

Unfortunately, the game itself wasn’t as entertaining as the Nuggets won 110-101. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray led all scorers with 27 points while his teammate, center Nikola Jokic had 26 points and 18 rebounds.

Overall, I had a pretty great experience being a virtual fan. I was a bit skeptical at first due to the internet difficulties, but when I had a seat it was super fun being able to watch a game from such a unique viewpoint. I will definitely try to be a virtual fan again especially with the NBA Finals coming up in just a matter of weeks. However, I will only try to be a virtual fan on weekends as it is very time consuming. 

The “NBA Virtual Fan Experience” is definitely an experience any basketball fan would not want to miss out on.