10 Greatest Home-Court Advantages in NBA History
What is the goal of every team during the regular season? Home-court advantage in the playoffs of course. Being able to start a series in your own backyard gives the players, coaches and fans a chance to unite and defeat the opposition.
Home-court advantage in the NBA has grown even larger with each passing year. The fans are more engaged, the PA announcers can actually ignite momentum for the home team, and the players would much rather stay in their own homes rather than a hotel.
Borrowing a phrase from ESPN" the stats don't lie here either. Based on the number of games an NBA team won at home over the past five years, projections show they would have won 10.17 percent more of their games if they played them all at home. The environments and dimensions don't vary like some other sports, but the NBA does have some interesting variables.
Honorable Mention: Alamodome
Flying under the radar in typical San Antonio Spurs fashion, the Alamodome gets and honorable mention for being such a unique place to play basketball. From 1993 to 2002, the Spurs called this place home, and even many of the players weren't too thrilled with that factoid.
While it was large (held 55,266 people for a George Strait concert) the setup for an NBA game only required the use of about half of the space.
If you remember the giant black curtains, you know how much of an advantage that was for the home team. If you are too young to remember them, most NCAA basketball tournament games use large arenas in the early rounds, and it gives the game a unique atmosphere that can be unsettling for some.
Utah Jazz: Salt Lake City
With a small market like Salt Lake City, it’s no surprise that the Utah Jazz have always had a strong backing for their franchise. With not much else around, the Jazz are the focus of the state, and the team knows how much their fanbase means.
The lower bowl in Energy Solutions Arena is extremely steep, so it seems like the fans are actually on the court with the players. Most people will also tell you that it’s one of the hottest arenas, which is done on purpose to get the fans energized. Apparently it works, because in the 1996-1997 season the Jazz were 38-3 at home, which is the third-best home record in NBA history.
This projected chart shows just how important the home-court advantage is to the Jazz.
The Garden in New York City
Madison Square Garden is the second-oldest arena in the league, and is arguably the most popular. The media has magnified the performances of superstars when playing in New York City because of the big stage and pressure that comes with it.
Obviously, there have been some epic games in the Garden—not only in the NBA but in a number of different sports. It has played host to the Knicks, Rangers (NHL), Liberty (WNBA), as well as two AFL teams. The Big East men's basketball tournament and the St. John's Red Storm also call the Garden home.
In all, it hosts about 320 events per year.
With legendary music concerts and many other significant events taking place there over the years, it’s no wonder why everyone loves to play on this stage. For the Knicks players who are used to playing on it, they have an advantage over their competition.
Oklahoma City: College Atmosphere
The college atmosphere in Oklahoma City fueled this team to the NBA Finals last season. The arena is just 30 miles from Norman, Okla., and the crowd is always ready to go. Oklahoma City has played to 97.7 percent capacity or better each year. That includes their inaugural season in 2008 in which they went 23-59 after starting 3-29.
George Karl will tell you that Chesapeake Energy Arena is one of the loudest in the league.
“I have a 6-year-old girl that was at (Game 1), and she was crying because the noise was too loud,” Karl said. “That’s a bad thing for a 6-year-old girl, but it’s an awful good thing for an NBA basketball team to have that emotion and that enthusiasm in the building.”
Those fans have plenty to cheer for, as the future of their franchise looks bright with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook leading the charge.
Lack of Oxygen in Denver, Colorado
The high altitude in Denver has been well documented, and everyone knows even the most well-conditioned athletes have trouble getting oxygen in the Mile High city. For some, it’s easy to dismiss that as a home-court advantage until you actually see guys on the opposing team’s bench hooked up to oxygen tanks.
The fact is, when you train every day in those type of conditions, they don’t have nearly the effect on you that they do on those that are not used to it. The Pepsi Center is also a long trip away from the airport, giving the visiting team something else to look forward to. The people in Denver obviously have one of the most unique home-court advantages not just in the NBA—but in all of sports.
Last year the Nuggets were in the middle of the pack in terms of home attendance, but don’t let that fool you. The fans are invested in their professional sports teams, and the Nuggets are no exception.
ABA Pacers in the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum
This facility was built in 1939, and from 1967 to 1974 the Indiana Pacers of the ABA called this place home.
Just four years before the Pacers moved there, "during the premier of Holiday on Ice, a propane leak caused an explosion near the concession stands. More than 70 people were killed and nearly 400 were injured."
The Pacers were the most successful team in ABA history, and their “home court” was part of the reason why. The locker rooms, if you can even call them that, were just open concrete rooms with wooden benches. The massive size of the building gave players on the court a strange feeling, and was something they could never seem to get used to.
Parquet Floor in the Boston Garden
The parquet floor at the Boston Garden contained many defects, which were said to give the Boston Celtics an advantage. They were more familiar with the playing surface, and knew about some “dead spots” on the court.
Legendary coach Red Auerbach used to only let opposing teams have cold water in their locker room. In the 1985-1986 season, the Celtics won 40 of their 41 home games, the most in NBA history. Yes, it was a good team, but remember they were just 27-14 on road that year.
There was no air conditioning either. In Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals, oxygen tanks were given to players because of the 97-degree temperatures. When you saw the championship banners hanging from the rafters, and the seats filled to capacity with green, you knew you were in trouble as the opposing team.
The Stars Are out in L.A.
The Staples Center is one of the more popular arenas in the league, and for good reason. Not only do they play host to two NBA teams, but one of them is arguably the best in the history of the NBA.
The Lakers and Clippers share the building, but the atmosphere is significantly different when each is listed as the home team. The Lakers fill the rafters with championship banners and retired jerseys, and fill the court-side seats with celebrities and big-name personalities.
As if you needed any evidence to showcase their dominance at home, we’ve got it. The Lakers twice went 37-4 at home, during the 1986 and 1989 seasons. Often the last games on the day’s schedule, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are used to being in the spotlight on the biggest stage.
Running of the Bulls in Chicago
Whether you were inside the pitch-dark United Center, or watching it on TV, when you heard the bass kick on and the video of the Bulls running through the streets of Chicago, the hairs on the back of your neck would stand straight up.
The pregame festivities assured that every person in the arena had their adrenaline pumping. There was an energy that seemed to flow throughout the entire building. The crowd was obviously in every game, as they watched the greatest player of all time lead them to six titles.
Since 2004, the Chicago Bulls have finished outside of the top two in attendance just once. The intimidation was always present when Michael Jordan was on the floor, and it showed. It may not be the same for today’s players, but hearing the music play before their starting lineups are introduced still gives me goose bumps.
All of the Talent in South Beach
Miami has always been one of the favorite road trips for every NBA team, especially during the winter months. Going from the snowy weather to South Beach will provide plenty of distractions for teams that aren’t focused on beating the Heat.
With superstar players coming together for Miami, American Airlines Arena is suddenly packed with “fans” cheering the Heat towards another NBA championship.
Obviously this is another place for celebrities to spend their time, creating even more distractions. The Heat are also known for letting the fans in the upper bowl down to the lower sections, putting even more pressure on the away team. Their home-court advantage is even greater now that they are the defending champions of the NBA.
The Rose Garden on the West Coast
Just talking about the Rose Garden gives people goose bumps. As one of the largest arenas in the NBA, the somewhat remote location of Portland also seems to have a positive effect on the home team.
The time difference is one thing, but the weather is another factor. Just looking at the arena from the outside gives you an eerie feeling going in.
The Blazers had the second-best home attendance in the league last season, which has been consistent for years. The fans back their team, and despite all of their bad luck over the years, it is a tough environment for the opposition to play in.