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The large LED screens inside the Angeles University Foundation gym. (Photo from Jeremiah Sevilla)

Several fans, league officials and even the media had a taste of the first “virtual” fan experience as the PBA finally resumed Sunday inside the “bubble” at the Angeles University Foundation in Clark, Pampanga.

The concept was similar to what the NBA is doing, as the PBA also had “virtual” fans seated from behind the bench and on both sides of the court.

A total of five big LED televisions were set up at the venue.

PBA chairman Ricky Vargas of TNT Tropang Giga said it is important to keep the fans involved since they are the lifeline of the league.

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“Magandang experience for the fans kasi makikita nila yung sarili nila na nanonood ng game, ang yung ibang fans din na nanonood sa TV, nakikita nila na may mga fans virtually nanonood sa venue. So hopefully sila din maging interested to have that ‘virtual’ fan experience,” said Vargas.

“Of course we all saw how the NBA did it and I’m happy that we’re to do it here in the PBA with the help of Smart technology. This is the first time that we’re doing it in the country and we’re still learning from this.”

“If this is the ‘new normal’ way for the fans to watch the games, maybe we can also do it in other sports or in other leagues. But definitely happy na meron tayong ganito na fans can enjoy, and for the teams to have the experience na kahit wala yung mga supporters nila sa venue, meron naman silang ‘virtual’ fans,” added Vargas.

One of the first to experience being a “virtual” fan is Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president and Meralco Bolts representative Al Panlilio.

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“It’s a good experience, especially for the PBA fans. That’s the reason why the board decided to have the ‘virtual’ fan,” said Panlio.

The league resumed after seven months of break, or when play was suspended when the government issued a lockdown because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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