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NBA prepares 5G, VR and broadcast innovations for All-Star Weekend

Technology is an increasingly important part of the NBA’s annual exhibition showcase.

17 February 2023 Steve McCaskill

Warner Media / NBA

  • AT&T will use 5G network for fan activation efforts
  • Carton Network will host children’s-themed simulcast

The National Basketball Association (NBA) will use 5G, virtual reality (VR) and children’s-themed simulcasts during its All-Star Weekend, cementing the mid-season event as a technological showcase for the league.

This year’s All-Star Weekend takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah from 17th to 19th February and includes not just the All-Star Game itself, but the NBA Slam Dunk event the night before and a series of fan events taking place in the city.

Salt Lake City will also play host to the 2023 NBA All-Star Tech Summit, which will focus on trends in sports, media and technology.

Mobile operator AT&T, the NBA’s official 5G innovation partner, will once again use its next generation network to power additional cameras around the court and to provide additional views from the pre-game concert.

New to this year is a 5G-powered ‘Shaq Cam’, a handheld camera rig operated by NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, to capture courtside views of the action and his reactions to the NBA Slam Dunk event. The footage will be used in TNT’s live broadcast of the event and via social media.

“NBA fans are among the most engaged, tech-savvy in the world and so we look to them for inspiration as we create unique experiences with AT&T 5G,” said Jeni Bell, senior vice president, wireless product marketing, at AT&T.

“When fans think of NBA All-Star, they envision explosive skills, creative dunks, and huge star-power – all throughout the weekend, AT&T 5G is helping enhance those connections that matters most to basketball fans.”

The Slam Dunk event will also be given the children’s simulcast treatment on Cartoon Network, with some of Warner Bros Discovery’s (WBD) most popular animated cameras added to the broadcast as sideline reporters, analysts and judges.

AT&T, which says it has invested more than US$130 million in its 5G network in Salt Lake City over the past three years, will also offer visitors to the NBA Crossover fan event the ability to turn themselves into avatars and compete in VR games. A version of ‘The Playermaker’ app is available for fans at home.

Previous All-Star games have been produced in VR and broadcast on NBA League Pass. Last year, a special non-fungible token (NFT) collection was produced for the 2022 event in Cleveland. 

SportsPro says…

The NBA is one of the most technologically progressive properties in world sport, enthusiastically embracing everything from statistical analytics and live streaming through to digital collectibles. It also refreshed its mobile application last year with help from its partner Microsoft.

Technology is now an increasingly important part of the NBA All-Star Game, which provides a high-profile platform to showcase innovation away from a competitive setting. These latest activations and the inclusion of a tech-specific event are evidence of that.

Other initiatives include the NBA Launchpad accelerator programme and a dedicated investment arm, both designed to identify ways technology can enhance the league and benefit its teams and players.

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