Pop a Shot with NBA AR. Credit: Yahoo! Sports

The NBA is putting professional basketball at your fingertips with NBA AR, available now in the iOS app store. The app takes advantage of Apple’s ARKit, and it lets anyone step onto the court wherever life may take them. With a design similar to the Pokeball throwing mini-game from Pokemon Go, this new app offers a lot of pocket-sized fun for NBA fans.


The rules are the same as any basketball toss game at your local arcade (or Chuck-E-Cheese): 30 seconds to flick as many balls into the hoop as possible. Before the game begins, the app scans your room and places a “regulation-sized” NBA hoop. We put “regulation-sized” in quotations because it’s an AR app, scale really doesn’t mean anything, but the thought is a nice gesture. According to support for the app, you’ll want to find a level surface to pin the backboard too. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re two feet tall on a massive floating court.

The app begins by asking your favorite team, which will emblazon their logo on the floor before the backboard. There is also a nice hook at the end for live games of the team you chose. The app will tell you the date and time of their next game, as well as connect you to sources to watch it or buy tickets for it.

NBA AR requires an accelerometer, so you’ll need at least an iPhone 6s to play it. The game also connects to a global leaderboard, where players can compare scores and find out who has the best jump shot. You’ll need to physically move your body and re-position your phone to nail three-point shots from the right distance. It’s definitely something that takes getting used to, but it’s a fun way to get up and move.

That said, this isn’t even the digital equivalent of playing HORSE. It might be fun between pick up games while you’re catching your breath or waiting in line at the venue itself.

It works best in wide open spaces that are well lit, including the outdoors.

Pushing for AR

You’re going to a see a lot more AR applications in the coming years, and many will be specifically tailored to sports fans. Google, Facebook, Apple and the other mobile powers that be have developed an extensive set of tools for AR development. Apple is leading the charge with ARKit, but you’ll most likely see new ways to engage your favorite sports and events as time passes.

You may be aware that the NBA is pledging to broadcast its entire 2017 season in VR, after test launching a few weekly games in the past. Apple is banking a lot on these AR applications, positioning ARKit to be the next big thing for brands. The Sacramento Kings are using it as a tool to sell jerseys. Who knows what the other big budget teams will embrace?

Final Thoughts

The app is little more than a diversion, albeit a fun one, but it presents the first steps the NBA is taking into AR and VR content. MLB fans can already enjoy AR apps that allow them to view a player’s stats in real time. Given that the league has said this is only the first app they are designing for AR, we can expect similar developments in the not-too-distant future. Although, for what it’s worth, The Cleveland Cavaliers had already beaten the league to this particular punch.

Another important aspect of the app is its social integration. There was evidence, even before the most recent NFL scandals, that interest in professional sports (specifically the NFL) had begun to decline. With more social hooks, the NBA and other leagues may be trying to find new fans in the growing population of eSports gamers.