Among the many challenges us sports fans face in China is finding a way to watch our favorite NBA basketball games online. This is especially true when China randomly decides to boycott the NBA over a single tweet this last October.
Fortunately, there are multiple ways, both free and paid, that allow you to watch NBA in China for the 2020-2021 season.
Below you can read all about the best ways to watch NBA games while living overseas. Basketball is extremely popular in China, so unless the Chinese government decides it’s worth continuing to throw a childish fit over political differences, it shouldn’t be too hard to find an NBA game to watch.
The tricky part is finding English announcers (instead of Chinese) and ways to stream the game when it’s convenient for you, instead of early in the morning.
I’m going to start with the most high-quality, reliable options and work my way down. Naturally, high-quality and reliable methods come with a price tag, while the free options are fickle and often low-quality.
You’ll need to choose which method works best for your needs and budget.
A few of these methods for watching the NBA in China require a piece of software called a “VPN”. I’ve been using ExpressVPN to watch sports in China for years. It’s been extremely reliable, which is why I often recommend it as an option for other expats in China.
Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you decide to purchase one of the services below. Rest assured I only recommend what I personally have used here in China, and I appreciate your support of this free website!
1. NBA League Pass – Best China Option
By far the best and easiest way to watch NBA in China in high definition is with NBA League Pass.
With NBA League Pass, you can watch live and replayed games all season long along with condensed replays on demand, which with the time difference between China and the US, makes staying on top of your favorite NBA team all the more easy.
There are a number of perks that go along with a service like NBA League Pass, such as:
- Watch NBA games on any device (computer, mobile phone, smart TV).
- Get multiple language options to listen to for commentary.
- The option to watch condensed games (skip timeouts, replays, etc.)
- Premium subscriptions grant additional features such as access to classic games and zero commercials.
The major downside to NBA League Pass is, unlike NFL Game Pass that allows you to stream NFL games no matter where you are in the world (here’s how to watch the NFL in China), NBA League Pass restricts viewing in places where exclusive TV rights exist.
For example, if trying to log onto the NBA League Pass website in China, you will be redirected to Tencent, which has exclusive rights to stream NBA games to Chinese (more on this option below).
Because of this, in order to use NBA League Pass in China, you’ll need to sign up for a pass account and then connect to an ExpressVPN server in the UK or other such country. A VPN will trick the service into thinking you’re no longer in China, at which point you’ll be able to stream the games.
2. Paid TV Streaming Services
The next best way to watch NBA in China is through paid TV streaming services. Hulu Live TV, for example, allows you to watch NBA games live along with games from other major pro and college leagues (learn how to watch Hulu in China here).
An added perk to these services is not only can you watch the NBA in China, but you can also watch plenty of other shows you like from your favorite TV networks.
Yet with every perk comes cons, and a major downside to these services is that diehard fans can’t watch every NBA game.
Another bummer is you are likely to experience blackouts where you occasionally can’t watch your favorite team play. Additionally, these services are geo-restricted meaning that you have to use a VPN or SmartDNS service to stream NBA games.
Lastly, many services may only stream NBA games live forcing you to get up at the crack of dawn to watch your favorite team play. Therefore, it couldn’t hurt to do your fair share of research into a service where you can stream NBA games on demand along with access to other channels and features you like best.
Which Streaming Services Feature NBA Basketball?
There are now a number of great services that allow you to watch English TV shows in China. You can start with the following paid TV services based on which country you would like to stream from:
- United States: Check out Hulu, YouTubeTV, Sling TV, fubo TV, or USTVNow. Each has its own package of programs, channels, and features from the U.S. Some of them, such as YouTubeTV, allow you to DVR the game to watch at your own convenience.
- United Kingdom: For basketball fans in the UK, use Now TV to watch NBA in China along with NFL, football, rugby, cricket, and F1.
- Canada: Watch NBA in China, including the Raptors, on Sportsnet NOW.
Remember, use of these TV streaming services requires a good VPN for China, so make sure you have that set up before you attempt to stream a game using this method.
3. Watch NBA Basketball with ESPN
If you are from the US and if your family back home happens to subscribe to cable TV, then you can watch NBA basketball in China using the ESPN Watch app. To do this, log onto ESPN’s website or download the ESPN app on your phone. From there, select the live game you want to watch and login with your cable TV provider.
The big upside of this approach is you may be able to watch the NBA in China with no cost above what you or your folks back home are already paying for cable TV.
The downside is you will also experience game blackouts based on your geographic location. Of course, as I’ve already mentioned, you can control your virtual “geographic location” using a VPN like ExpressVPN.
4. Watch NBA in China via Tencent
The NBA is insanely popular in China. As such, Tencent has partnered with the NBA to stream NBA games to millions of viewers in China.
If you want, you could subscribe to the local Chinese NBA League Pass with Tencent to watch the NBA in China.
The benefits to this method is it will save you plenty of cash since subscription prices are much lower than the foreign-based subscriptions. It also doesn’t require using a VPN, which is a plus.
The downside here is the website, app, and sportscasting are all done in the Chinese language.
If you are fluent in Chinese or don’t care if you watch NBA in China in Mandarin, streaming games from Tencent could be a good option for you.
Note: And if you want to learn Chinese, you’ll want to check out my recommended Chinese language learning tools.
If you log onto the NBA League Pass in China without a VPN, you will be automatically redirected to the Tencent website. From there you can register for your account and choose your method of payment, which includes Alipay. You can also access the website through QQ using the link below.
5. Watch NBA Basketball in China on CCTV 5
If you are looking for the free way to watch NBA in China, you can check out games as scheduled on local TV.
CCTV 5 is the sports broadcasting channel in China and you can watch NBA basketball during the regular season for free along with other sports on the channel.
Again the major downside here is you cannot watch the games in English. You’re also only stuck watching live games. But as there is a giant fanbase in China for NBA basketball, you are likely to find a great sports scene at the nearest bar.
It’s possible your Internet package also comes with TV broadcasting and includes CCTV 5. If not, you can always add TV to your Internet subscription for a small fee.
Final Thoughts | Watch NBA in China
The methods I listed above will ensure you don’t have to miss out on the 2020-2021 NBA season in China. Most of the time you will have to pay for high quality on-demand streaming, but that’s the way the internet works nowadays.
Personally, I prefer to watch my games in English, but I know that’s not how everybody likes it. If you’re willing to listen in Chinese, there are a number of cheaper options for you.
Either way you go, I hope you’re able to stream and watch the NBA in China quickly and without any hassle.
Do you have another way of watching the NBA in China that isn’t mentioned here? Leave a comment below to let me know!