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2017 NBA All-Star Game

Baron Davis, John Starks help pioneer the NBA’s new VR experience

League partners with Google to bring fans an experience that rivals being courtside

Former NBA player and two-time All-Star Baron Davis and NBA legend John Starks took a break from the festivities during All-Star Weekend in New Orleans on Friday to help launch the NBA into the future.

Partnering with Google’s new consumer virtual reality headset, Daydream, the NBA released its new virtual reality experience, House of Legends. It features greats such as James Worthy, Robert Horry, Baron Davis, John Starks and Bruce Bowen discussing everything from their careers to their facilities to pop culture.

Ask self-described “tech nerd” Davis what virtual reality represents, he replies: “Second Life Sports – you can have Steph Curry in real life, and then you’ll have the VR version of Steph Curry.”

Davis’s interest in virtual reality stems from his experience as a player. “[I’ve] played a few [virtual reality] games –Tilt Brush. John Wick. I’ve watched the evolution of VR as it pertains to the first product to now actually producing content around an event. To see the evolution of VR is really cool, but to also be a part of it, and be on the forefront, on the cusp of this new immersive content.”

While in the two 360 experiences currently available, fans can tour the Sacramento Kings new facility, chop it up with Horry, and watch players train and practice. Digital Domain helped build the end-to-end virtual reality solution that is one of the smoothest and most advanced experiences on the market. The transitions between scenes, places and players are well-designed and easy to absorb, even for those with little experience in virtual reality.

While it isn’t quite yet the same as standing next to Curry, a glimpse of the future is found in Trick Shots. It features NBA Social host Austin Mills and Ben McLemore of the Sacramento Kings one-on-one, banking everything from half-court shots to dunks with a little playful trash talk along the way. Starks, who entered the virtual reality experience three times during the exhibition, raved: “Trick Shots was crazy. You know, Austin and Ben, that was just crazy, [and] they had different views that you could see the shots coming from.”

Davis thinks Trick Shots brings in “a fun gaming element” and he’s right – of all the experiences, the feeling of Mills and McLemore looking directly into the camera and speaking directly to the player rivals being courtside during the game. And if executed well, the NBA virtual reality app will allow fans at home to play one on one with their favorite stars, a transformative use of the potential for virtual reality.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into, to be honest with you,” Starks said. “The NBA asked me to come out and you know, they said you’re going to talk about your life experiences in the NBA and a little bit about your life story and you’re going to be sitting down in front of a green screen and just talking. I didn’t know what to expect until I got out there. You see all these advertisements of this whole virtual reality thing on television. But until you put that headpiece on and really experience it, it brings everything to life.”

After gravitating to the experience three times in one hour, Stark still sounded amazed: “When I put it on, I was just blown away because of the 3-D images – it was just like me talking and interacting with the fans themselves.”

Davis is bullish on the potential for virtual reality. “I think the potential is endless. Remember Second Life? Well, there it is. There’s VR for you! Second Life – a world you can escape to and be whoever you want and I think that’s where VR will go.”

Stark agreed: “Man, the options [VR has] are unlimited. From basketball to football, any sporting event, I think it’s just going to be incredible. Just the way the young people are coming up, they’re looking for something, and I think this is going to be the next new big thing.”

Latoya Peterson is the Deputy Editor for Digital Innovation at The Undefeated. She is becoming a cyborg, but in the gamer way, not the Terminator way.