Sports without fans in the stands have been a very different experience. I would say in some instances it is actually pretty weird and in the case of things like UFC celebrations after a victory, they have been downright cringe worthy such as when a fighter climbs the cage to wave his arms at a non-existent crowd in the distance.
Other sports such as Bundesliga, NRL, and Aussie Rules, have some people in the stands but the crowd noise is generated to make it seem as though there is a full fan base in attendance. I have mixed feeling about this but as time goes by I am leaning more towards finding it a bit stupid and sit-comish.
The NBA hasn't been extremely specific about the enhancements they intend to bring to the game, but we do know a little bit about it and I think it could go either way as far as whether they end up being good or bad for the entire experience.
They are going to try to bring "fans closer to the action" as they are going to be using a 31 camera setup, which is dramatically more than they would use in a packed stadium because of obvious reasons such as space being taken up by fans. Some players and coaches have stated that the quiet of no fans being in attendance is eerie and weird.
One thing that we are probably going to notice a great deal more is that in a typical game there is a lot of trash talking that goes on during a game, but we have never really been able to hear it. We can sometimes read lips to realize that our wholesome sports heroes are pretty foul-mouthed just like the rest of us. I don't know how much pressure the players are going to be under to keep it clean, but with a completely silent arena, it could be very eye-opening and perhaps damaging to some players' reputations.
Something I think that could badly backfire is that a certain number of fans are going to have their faces visible by the players during the game as the NBA is teaming up with Microsoft Teams to have your face on the sidelines.
I think this will probably be reserved for celebrities and the wealthy elite and it remains to be seen if the participants will have some control over which direction their camera is facing, or if they will be capable of being heard by the players. I can see this going terribly wrong if a prankster or troll ends up in the mix. It think it has an opportunity to be more interesting than the games in some ways.
The NBA is also going to try to mimic the sound and feel of each individual stadium to attempt to recreate a "home team advantage" atmosphere and while I don't have any idea what that could possibly mean, it will be interesting to see it unfold. Just like the monitors for individual fans, I think this has a great chance of going horribly horribly wrong.
Regardless of how these enhancements work in relation to the at-home experience, I think I speak for a lot of NBA fans when I say that I am really excited about the season restarting in just a few days. Let's hope they can manage to keep the Covid at bay so we have something to watch.