The Ultimate Guide to Watching Basketball Without Cable

Source: Unsplash/Kenny Eliason

Whether you’re a big NBA fan or you love college hoops, you may be wondering how you can watch basketball without cable. In this guide from Flixed, we’ll get into the details, including how to watch off-season basketball coverage, catch regular season NBA and NCAA games, and even how to watch the NBA playoffs, and NCAA postseason coverage like March Madness.

In a hurry? Check out these four streaming services that are great for watching basketball without cable:

  • DirecTV StreamDirecTV Stream is the most expensive option, but has all the channels you need for both local game coverage and nationally-broadcast NCAA and NBA basketball games.
  • Sling TVSling TV is the most affordable way to watch nationally-broadcast NBA games, as well as a good selection of NCAA basketball games, especially when combined with a digital TV antenna.
  • NBA League PassNBA League Pass is a great option if your favorite team is out of market – like if you’re a Miami Heat fan living in Ohio. You can watch your local team if you’re out-of-market, and even upgrade to watch all out of market games (excluding regional and national blackouts).
  • ESPN+ESPN+ is the best option for college ball fans who want to watch NCAA basketball. It has thousands of exclusive NCAA games this season, in top conferences like the Atlantic 10, Big Sky, Ivy League, and Southern conferences, to name just a few.

Outside the US? You may be able to use a VPN to watch basketball without cable. Here are our top VPN picks.

Our pick for watching basketball without cable: DirecTV Stream

Source: DirecTV Stream

DirecTV Stream is our top pick because it combines everything that basketball fans need. It has RSNs (Regional Sports Networks) for regular-season NBA games in your region, as well as all the channels you need for national NBA games. Not only that, but it has tons of great channels for NCAA basketball, solid device support, and good overall features.

Why choose DirecTV Stream?

DirecTV Stream’s biggest claim to fame is its full RSN (Regional Sports Network) support. RSNs are where you’ll find local NBA games in your area. For example, if you want to watch the Utah Jazz without cable, you’ll need AT&T SportsNet. Or, if you want to watch the Brooklyn Nets without cable, you’ll need Yes Network. DirecTV Stream is the only internet TV service that has all RSNs in top broadcast areas.

That means that, no matter where you’re located, you can get your local RSN, and watch your region’s NBA team without any problems. Yes, you’ll pay a little extra for the privilege, since you’ll need the DirecTV Stream Choice package or a higher-tier package. But if you’re a die-hard NBA fan, it’s still the best choice, especially since competitors like fuboTV and YouTube TV keep losing RSNs.

With DirecTV Stream, you also get TNT, ESPN, and ABC, which you’ll need to watch nationally-televised NBA games. In addition, it offers CBS, ACC Network, Big 10 Network, ESPNU, SEC Network, and tons of other channels for NCAA men’s and women’s basketball. If you want to watch college basketball without cable, DirecTV Stream is a great choice.

Top 5 DirecTV Stream features

Why choose DirecTV Stream? Here’s a quick breakdown of its most compelling features for cord-cutters who want to watch basketball without cable.

  • Best lineup of RSNs – No other competing internet TV service comes close to DirecTV Stream’s lineup of RSNs, which includes NBC Sports, Bally Sports, Yes Network, AT&T SportsNet, and more.
  • All channels for national NBA games – ESPN, TNT, ABC, and NBA TV come with the Choice package from DirecTV Stream, which means you can watch every national NBA game.
  • Good selection of college basketball channels – Thanks to channels like ESPN U, SEC Network, and ACC Network, you can watch tons of great NCAA basketball games during the regular season, and TNT, TBS, CBS, and TruTV have you covered during the postseason.
  • Great features – You can watch on up to 20 devices at home and three outside your home, and make unlimited recordings for up to 9 months with DirecTV Stream.
  • Robust device support – DirecTV Stream supports all major streaming devices including iOS, Android, web browsers, Amazon Fire, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast/Google TV, and more.

Read our in-depth review of DirecTV Stream for more details about this cable alternative, or click here now to sign up and try it for yourself.

When is live basketball season?

Basketball was originally developed as a winter sport, way back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, most college and professional leagues follow this format, with the exception of the WNBA.

NBA basketball season

NBA basketball season usually starts in early October every year. The regular season ends in April of the following year, followed by the NBA Playoffs. The NBA Finals are typically played in early to mid June.

WNBA basketball season

WNBA basketball season actually starts in early May every year, and the regular season ends in August. Then, the playoffs and WNBA Finals take place in August and September. This fills the gap left by the NBA basketball season quite nicely!

NCAA basketball season

Both men’s and women’s NCAA basketball start in November in most conferences, and the regular season continues until March. Then, March Madness kicks in, and both men and women play in single-elimination tournaments that continue from March to the first weekend in April.

How to watch the basketball postseason without cable

Typically, postseason basketball airs nationally, unlike regular season games that air on local RSNs. So that means you’ll need some slightly different channels to watch the NBA or NCAA basketball postseason without cable:

  • NBA basketball postseason – NBA postseason basketball airs on ESPN, TNT, ABC, and NBA TV, so these are the channels you’ll need to catch all the action.
  • WNBA basketball postseason – The WNBA postseason airs on ESPN, ESPN2, and ABC, so you’ll need all three for maximum playoff coverage.
  • NCAA basketball postseason – Both the men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments air on CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV.

How to watch basketball during the offseason

If you’re looking to scratch the basketball itch during the off-season, you can subscribe to NBA League Pass. It has a full slate of replays and past broadcasts for you to enjoy. The NBA.TV cable channel also has some off-season coverage and game replays.

If you’re an NBA fan, you can also consider watching the WNBA – the WNBA season starts right about when the NBA season ends, so it’s a great alternative to watching men’s pro basketball.

Other options for watching basketball without cable

DirecTV Stream is our top choice for watching basketball without cable, but it’s not your only option. Sling TV, NBA League Pass, and ESPN+ are good alternatives. Let’s get into the details.

Sling TV

Source: Sling TV

Sling TV is a great choice if you want to watch national games, and don’t care about your local team. It lacks any RSNs (Regional Sports Networks), but the Sling Blue package does have TNT and ESPN, with NBA.TV and NBA League Pass as optional add-ons.

You can combine Sling TV with a digital antenna to pick up ABC, and watch every single NBA game this season. It also has some coverage of college basketball. Read our in-depth review of Sling TV for more details, or click here to try it out and see if you like it.


Source: ESPN+

ESPN+ is a great choice if you like college basketball. ESPN inked a $500 million NCAA basketball deal, which will include tons of NCAA men’s and women’s basketball games from lesser-known conferences like ASUN, Atlantic 10, Big Sky, Southland, and more. It also has some Power 5 (ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC) games, and simulcasts of games that are otherwise exclusive to SEC Network Plus or ACC Network X.

ESPN+ is also really affordable, and if you can’t get enough college ball, it’s a great option alongside one of the other services on this list. Read our in-depth review of ESPN+ for more info, or sign up today to try it for yourself.

NBA League Pass

Source: NBA League Pass

NBA League Pass is an excellent choice if you don’t live near your favorite team. For example, if you’re a Celtics fan who lives in Portland, you can pay a season-long fee to watch all Celtics games, except those that are blacked out due to national broadcasts.

You can even pay a little more to get League Pass Premium, which will allow you to watch all non blacked-out NBA games from every team, except your local team. Click here to sign up and try out NBA League Pass today.

What channels air live basketball games?

That depends on whether you’re watching the NBA, WNBA, or NCAA basketball. Let’s break down all the channels you need to watch live basketball games.

Channels for live NBA basketball games

For your local team, you’ll need your local RSN (Regional Sports Network) from companies like Bally Sports, NBC Sports, or AT&T SportsNet to watch your local team. Check out our guide on how to watch every NBA team without cable for more details.

Some games are also broadcast nationally, and are not available on RSNs. These air on ESPN and TNT most of the time, and also air on ABC during the postseason playoffs. Wondering how to watch your favorite team? We’ve got guides on how to watch the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, and Dallas Mavericks without cable – along with every other NBA team.

Channels for live WNBA basketball games

The WNBA airs on ESPN, ABC, CBS, and CBS Sports, with select games being broadcast on Facebook, Amazon Video, and Twitter. You can check out the official WNBA schedule for more details.

Channels for live NCAA basketball games

For NCAA basketball, most regular season games are broadcast on cable networks like BTN, ACC Network, PAC12 Network, Big 10 Network, SEC Network, FS1, BTN, and ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU, with some games also airing on CBS.

During March Madness, though, you’ll want to make sure you have CBS, as well as TNT, TBS, and TruTV. These channels are where you’ll be able to catch all the bracket-busting college basketball action you want!

Best devices for watching basketball without cable

You can use any of our recommended services to watch basketball on your iOS or Android device, and on web browsers, too. Looking for another device to watch basketball without cable? Here are a few top recommendations.

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K – This is a great, affordable streaming stick, particularly for Amazon Prime users, thanks to its tight integration with Amazon Prime Video and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.
  • Roku Streaming Stick 4K – The Roku Streaming Stick 4K combines great technical specs with an easy-to-use interface and plenty of free content, making it a great choice for any cord-cutter.
  • 2022 Apple TV 4K  – It’s a premium option, but the 2022 Apple TV 4K is extremely powerful, has tons of storage, and integrates well with other iOS and macOS devices, so it’s a good option for Apple fans.
  • Chromecast with Google TV (4K) – This little dongle turns your TV into a fully-featured Android TV device, complete with Google’s Chromecast screen-casting technology. It supports Google Assistant, so it’s a good option if you’re heavily integrated into Google’s tech ecosystem.

For a deeper breakdown of the above devices, take a look at our roundup of the best streaming devices. And along with one of the above devices, you may also want to invest in a digital antenna, like this model from Gesobyte.

With a digital antenna, you can watch basketball without cable on CBS and ABC, and catch content from other top broadcast networks like NBC and Fox – all without paying a dime. For more info, check out this guide to getting OTA TV with an antenna for free.

How to bet on basketball

Basketball is one of the most heavily bet-on sports in the United States, especially with the recent legalization of sports gambling in most states. Some of the top sportsbooks offering basketball betting on NBA, WNBA, and NCAA games include DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesar’s Sportsbook, BetMGM, and Barstool Sportsbook.

If you’re looking to bet on basketball games, check out our article about where sports betting is legal, and do some research to make sure you choose a reputable, high-quality sportsbook.

How to watch basketball outside of the United States

In Canada, you can watch most basketball games on TSN, Sportsnet, RDS, and NBA TV. You can also get NBA League Pass to watch out-of-market games.

Elsewhere in the world, your best bet is to subscribe to NBA League Pass. They offer special pricing and discounts for international subscribers, so NBA fans can get plenty of great basketball games without cable for a low price.

You also have the option of subscribing to a VPN, which you can use to make it look like you’re located in the United States. Then, you can subscribe to one of our top picks above, like DirecTV Stream, Sling TV, or ESPN Plus. Check out our list of the top VPNS for more info.

Our takeaway: DirecTV Stream is the best option for watching basketball without cable

Overall, we think DirecTV Stream is the best way to watch basketball without cable, both for fans of professional basketball and NCAA college ball. But Sling TV, NBA League Pass, and ESPN+ are also good services to consider if you want to watch basketball without cable. But don’t just take our word for it. Try out the services we listed above, and see which one is right for you.

Eric Liston

Eric Liston Author

Eric Liston is a content writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Since 2015, he’s been writing about technology, cord-cutting, and helping everyday people save money. He also has expertise writing about medicine, dentistry, insurance, and a variety of other industries. No matter what he’s writing, his focus is always on simplifying complex concepts and making them approachable for everyone. When he’s not slamming away on his keyboard at his home office, you’ll find Eric reading sci-fi novels, improving his disc golf game (he just hit his first 400-foot drive) and playing video games on his gaming PC.

Desiree Wu

Desiree Wu Editor

Desiree is a full-time Honours Business Administration student at Ivey Business School at Western University. She also works as the Editorial Intern at Flixed. Desiree is based in London, Ontario.

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