New York City is home to both the newest and the second-oldest NBA arena. Madison Square Garden, now in its fourth incarnation, was completed in 1968, while Barclays Center was finished this past summer.
In between their construction, 27 other arenas have been built and witnessed some of the NBA's most dramatic moments. Obviously, the older an arena is, the more historic cache it's likely to have. But as we go through the rankings, you'll notice age isn't the final arbitrator.
Tense moments, exciting showdowns and euphoric events matter too.
So, without further ado, I give to you the NBA's 29 arenas ranked by history!
Opened: September 21, 2012
The Barclays Center hasn't made much history in its short life, especially in the NBA realm. The Brooklyn Nets' victory on November 26th over the New York Knicks in overtime remains the highlight of the arena's NBA life.
Leading up to Barclays Center's construction, it was at the center of one of the more creative and egregious abuses of eminent domain in American history. Its construction is part of the larger Atlantic Yards project that has displaced many Brooklynders. This is something to keep in mind for most of these subsequent stadiums. They provide great entertainment, but often come at a great social cost.
Opened: October 1, 2010
Home to the Orlando Magic, Amway Center has so far had an unremarkable existence. The 2012 All-Star Game has really been the only important event.
Well, it was also at the epicenter of last year's epic Dwightmare Saga.
Nothing of exceptional historical value looks to be happening soon, as the Magic appear to be on the train to nowhere fast with their core of Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Arron Afflalo. The only shot of historic happenings is if an opposing player decides to score 110 points in a single game in the near future.
Opened: October 21, 2005
Not much of NBA historical note has taken place at the Time Warner Cable Arena. Well, not good historical note. The Bobcats finished the 2011-12 on a 23-game losing streak and with the lowest season win percentage (10.6 percent) in NBA history on their home court.
Such is life for the Bobcats.
However, the Time Warner Cable Arena did open up with a bang back in 2005. The Rolling Stones started things off right that night with a set that hopefully included "Under My Thumb," "Miss You," "Lady Jane" and other delights.
Opened: December 2, 1997
The Verizon Center (née MCI Center) is currently playing host to "Les Wizerables." This production has actually been running for the last 15 years, minus a hiatus in the mid-2000s when Gilbert Arenas lifted the Washington Wizards from abominable to respectable.
Arenas subsequently dropped the club back into the muck following what is the Verizon Center's defining moment up to now. In late December 2009, Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton drew guns on each other in an incident that remains totally baffling to this day.
Sure, Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton have all attended games there (and Arenas hit a nifty game-winner in 2007), but Finga Gunz eclipses the presidential aura that passes by every once in a while.
Opened: February 19, 1999
From the photo, you can see that there plenty of banners hanging in Toronto's Air Canada Centre. Sadly, none of those belong to the Toronto Raptors. They all belong to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Of course, sadly for the Leafs, none of those Stanley Cup banners were secured while occupying the Air Canada Centre.
It's been a long and hapless existence for this arena. Toronto fans are some of the best and impassioned in the league, but the most memorable moments for the Raptors have been when Vince Carter comes back to town, only to break their hearts.
I hope something truly great and memorable happens positively for Toronto fans in the near future, but I wouldn't put my eggs in Bryan Colangelo's GM basket.
At least Avril Lavigne recorded a concert at the arena for release on DVD.
Opened: October 29, 1999
Aside from the hard-fought and spectacular second-round series between the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs in 2008, New Orleans Arena really hasn't made an imprint on the basketball world.
Where it's made history has been, unfortunately, related to Hurricane Katrina. It served as a medical facility in the aftermath of the storm in 2005. To help maintain basketball in Louisiana, the 2008 All-Star Game was held at New Orleans Arena. It also held one of the better All-Star Games in recent memory, with the East winning 134 to 128 in 2008.
Opened: September 18, 1999
From its opening in 1999 until 2008, Phillips Arena played host to the most awful stretch in Atlanta Hawks history. Nothing of positive merit happened on the court or in the stadium for the team—one abysmal losing season after another.
The highlight of this doldrums era was the 2003 All-Star Game, the last one Michael Jordan played in. It was an absolutely fantastic game and nearly made up for the years of pain. Jordan hit what seemed to be the game-winner in almost impossible fashion over Shawn Marion, but the West squad took the game to double overtime before finally winning, 155 to 145.
Over the last few seasons, the Hawks have returned to respectability, but have yet to wow with any historic moments—unless you count the series against Miami in 2009. Somehow, it went the full 7 games, even though the winning team always won by double digits. It made no sense.
Opened: October 1, 1999
Much like the Atlanta Hawks, the Denver Nuggets' tenure at Pepsi Center began in dramatically bad fashion in the midst of the worst playoff drought in team history. Finally, in 2004, the playoffs returned to Colorado after a decade hiatus.
However, despite the stream of playoff appearances, Denver has only advanced out of the first round once. The 2009 Nuggets advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals and were a serious threat to make the Finals, but fell to the Lakers in six games.
Coincidentally, this Western Conference Finals led to what is so far the most memorable Pepsi Center moment. The Lakers and Nuggets were due to play a game on May 25. As it so happened, the WWE had already booked the date for a wrestling extravaganza. Vince McMahon agreed to move the event, but only after delivering a ridiculing pot shot:
Even though the Denver Nuggets had a strong team this year and were projected to make the playoffs, obviously Nuggets and Pepsi Center owner Stan Kroenke did not have enough faith in his own team to hold the May 25 date for a potential playoff game.
Opened: June 8, 2002
The former home of the New Orleans Hornets following Hurricane Katrina in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 season, Chesapeake Energy Arena became the home of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2007-08 season.
It's not terribly old, but is a rising star in stadium history since sharing the Hornets with New Orleans marked the first time two cities shared one team since the Kansas City-Omaha Kings of the mid-1970s. Also, since moving in, the Thunder have quickly delivered two Western Conference Finals series and an NBA Finals.
Given the presence of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, I suspect more historic events will be happening here soon.
P.S. Take a moment to realize how surreal this photo is.
Opened: September 6, 2004
Prior to the last couple of seasons, the FedEx Forum had been host to a series of underwhelming Memphis Grizzlies teams.
Obviously, incarnations like the back-to-back 22-win teams in 2007 and 2008 were a pain to watch. However, even when the team made the playoffs (2004-2006), it failed to win a game, being swept a combined 12-0.
The past couple of seasons have brought some redemption, and the historical luster of the FedEx Forum has grown. In the 2011 playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies upended the No. 1 seeded San Antonio Spurs at the FedEx Forum by winning the sixth and deciding game of their first-round series.
Even more dramatically, the Grizzlies have put together two of the greatest playoff games in NBA history on their home court. In the second round of the 2011 playoffs, Oklahoma City and Memphis went into a triple overtime thriller—a game the Thunder won. And just last season, the Grizzlies ceded a 21-point fourth quarter lead to lose 99-98 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first game of their first-round series.
The Grizzlies are still generally disappointing, I suppose, but their disappointments are rising in the historic annals.
Opened: October 6, 2003
Since its opening, the Toyota Center has witnessed only one losing Houston Rockets team. In the always-competitive Western Conference, though, the Rockets have missed the playoffs four times in that span, despite having just that one losing season.
Nevertheless, the Toyota Center has had its share of historic moments. Having the first Asian superstar play within its confines alone gives the arena historic value, even if Yao Ming was oft-injured. The Rockets also reeled off a 22-game win streak in February and March 2008, which was spectacular and euphoric as well. That streak, by the way, is the second-longest in NBA history.
But the ultimate historic moment for the Rockets in Toyota Center was Tracy McGrady's miraculous 13 points in 35 seconds to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in December of 2004. T-Mac was on automatic that game.
Opened: August 12, 1996
For a decade, the Wells Fargo Center played host to one of the most exciting, if frustrating, players in NBA history. Watching Allen Iverson barrel into the lane with reckless abandon was gorgeous when it ended well, but maddening when it resulted in a wildly missed shot or a turnover.
Still, it was exciting, and you didn't want to miss a moment.
Iverson's careening and Dikembe Mutombo's defensive anchor delivered the 2001 NBA Finals to the City of Brotherly Love. However, the Lakers made quick work and demolished Philadelphia in five games.
Since then, things haven't really been highly memorable—aside from for the 2002 All-Star Game. Hosted at the Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia fans lustily booed Kobe Bryant all game long and then went into a frenzy when Bryant won the MVP for the game. It's still one of the most awkward moments in Philly sports history.
Opened: October 13, 1990
In its 22 years of existence, Minneapolis' Target Center hasn't seen much in the way of spectacular NBA events. But the steady presence of Kevin Garnett for a dozen years counts for something. And so does the fact that this is one of the few stadiums not built in the stadium construction frenzy of the last 15 or so years.
The greatest in-game moment in the stadium's history was Kevin Garnett's monstrous Game 7 in 2004 against Sacramento—32 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks and four steals. Magnificent.
Also, before the 1994 All-Star Game, the Target Center saw one of the greatest dunks in slam dunk contest history. Yes, between-the-legs dunks had been done before in a contest (Orlando Woolridge back in 1984), but J.R. Rider breathed new life into it and caused a frenzy with the East Bay Funk Dunk.
Opened: November 6, 1999
The home of the Indiana Pacers, Bankers Life Fieldhouse experienced a very eventful first half-decade. In fact, during its first season, the Pacers made their first NBA Finals*.
Although they lost to the Lakers in six games, it was a great, compelling series. What was then the Conseco Fieldhouse played host to the best game of the series and one of the best NBA games ever: Game 4 of the 2000 Finals.
Reggie Miller finished with 35 points, and Rik Smits was smoking hot with 24 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Shaquille O'Neal had a mammoth 36 points and 21 rebounds before fouling out.
In the overtime of that game, Kobe Bryant stepped up to the plate with his first big-time performance, finishing with 28 points and helping lift the Lakers to a 120-118 win.
Sadly, the other highly memorable moment also ended in Pacer heartbreak: Tayshaun Prince's chase-down block of Reggie Miller in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. Improbable was the block, unfathomable was the heartbreak and the franchise never really recovered until this past season.
*The Pacers do have 3 ABA titles from the early 1970s.
Opened: October 1, 1988
The Milwaukee Bucks have called the Bradley Center home for 25 years now, and I'm considering calling the arena cursed. The Bucks won 12 division titles, made seven conference finals and won an NBA title between 1969 and 1988.
Then along came the Bradley Center and its been one division title and one conference finals appearance.
To be honest, nothing of particularly amazing historic value has happened at the Bradley Center. It earns this spot solely because it's an old arena and has seen a lot of great players, albeit for opposing teams, play on its court, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone and Larry Bird.
Most of these other arenas can't say that.
Opened: October 17, 1994
The home to some good Cleveland Cavaliers team in the mid- and late 1990s, some awful Cavs teams in the early 2000s and some great Cavs teams over the last seven years until "The Decision," Quicken Loans Arena has seen its fair share of important history.
For starters, those sensational teams of 2000s featured a back-to-back MVP in LeBron James. The late 1990s teams had the final gasps of Shawn Kemp's greatness. And the mid-1990s teams had Terrell Brandon, who was one of the great PGs of the 1990s.
But all of that takes a backseat to the single greatest moment in Quicken Loans Arena history.
It was during the 1997 All-Star that the NBA celebrated its 50th Anniversary*. For the halftime festivities, the 50 greatest NBA players until that point were brought onto the court, minus the deceased Pete Maravich and the absent Jerry West and Shaquille O'Neal.
Watching it live at the time gave me goosebumps. Watching it now still gives me goosebumps.
*The NBA considers itself founded in the 1946-47 season, when the BAA was established. However, the NBA really dates to the 1949-50 season, when the BAA merged with the NBL to create the NBA.
Opened: July 17, 2001
Barely over a decade old, the home of the Dallas Mavericks has been the site of perpetual, Dirk Nowitzki-inspired success. Every year since it opened, the American Airlines Center has seen at least one playoff series and has a bevvy of classic games to call its own.
One of those classic games was in the 2003 Western Conference Finals. The Mavericks were the victims in this historic moment, as Steve Kerr came off the bench for the rival San Antonio Spurs and hit all four of his three pointers to lead a 34-9 San Antonio fourth-quarter run to defeat the Mavericks.
Obviously, having two NBA Finals played on your court also ups the historic ante. The 2006 series ended on the Mavs' home court, but with Miami taking the crown. But the Mavs got even this time on Miami's court in 2011.
Opened: September 30, 1995
Yes, the Boston Celtics play here. Yes, it's a Boston Garden. But it's not the Boston Garden. The old Boston Garden, the Boston Garden, would be without a doubt the most historic NBA stadium if it was still standing.
But it was demolished in 1995, and this arena took its place.
Until the Pierce-Garnett-Allen years, the Celtics were, for the most part, terrible. The only highlight moment prior to the new Big Three years was the epic, and I mean epic, comeback Boston made against New Jersey in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals. In the fourth quarter of Game 3, Boston turned up the heat and Paul Pierce was pure fire as the Celtics outscored the Nets 41 to 16 to win the game by four points.
But the new Big 3 has arrived, and Boston has since added a title, shootout duel between Paul Pierce and LeBron James, a stellar run of regular season and playoff success and one gargantuan Leon Powe game for the ages.
Opened: October 12, 1995
Opening the same year as the TD Garden, the Rose Garden gets the edge because the Portland Trail Blazers have been better and created, on balance, the more historically memorable moments.
Back-to-back Western Conference Finals in 1999 and 2000 made the Rose Garden one of the most exciting arenas in the NBA. Perennial playoff appearances from the franchise helped keep a rabid fan base rabid.
Even when the team hit a rough patch, it did it in memorable fashion as the "Jail Blazers." Dispirited and train-wreck basketball reached new heights in Portland as Ruben Patterson, Rasheed Wallace and Zach Randolph provided some stupendously petulant play.
But on an absolute high note, nothing will ever top Brandon Roy's tremendous 18-point fourth quarter to defeat the Mavericks in Game 4 of the 2010 playoffs. I got misty eyed watching the hobbled legend give one last hurrah.
Opened: November 8, 1988
Like the Bradley Center, the Sleep Train Arena (aka Arco Arena) benefits greatly from its lengthy history. When the stadium opened, the Sacramento Kings were still using those gorgeous powder blue uniforms. Unfortunately, the team stunk, even through the best of Mitch Richmond's years there.
Finally, in the early 2000s, the team rose to great prominence on the back of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and coach Rick Adelman. The arena rivaled the Rose Garden in noise and hosted what I think is the greatest playoff series of the decade: the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Four games of that series took place in Sacramento, and each one was a long, exciting train of excitement. It all culminated in a heart-stopping Game 7 that went into overtime. The Lakers won 112-106, but you could cut the tension with a knife and taste the bitter desperation of both squads.
The game was so good that it still resonates a decade later and keeps the otherwise moribund Kings so high on this list.
Opened: June 6, 1992
Unveiled for the 1992-93 NBA season, the US Airways Center in Phoenix was immediately the scene of NBA drama and history.
Charles Barkley played his first season as a Sun that year, and the Suns made the NBA Finals. John Paxson's dagger three-pointer in Game 6 to win the series for Chicago on Phoenix's home court remains the defining moment for the arena two decades later.
Still, other great moments have come US Airways Center's way.
In 1995, Mario Elie hit a three and blew them the kiss of death to bounce Phoenix from the postseason. In 1997, Rex Chapman hit a nearly impossible three to defeat Seattle in a postseason game. Last decade, the Suns and Spurs rivalry went into a heated overdrive as they struggled for Western supremacy.
And even when they play the Los Angeles Clippers, it creates some fairly great moments, like Raja Bell's three in their 7-game 2006 postseason matchup.
It probably won't come to mind first, but US Airways Center is definitely one of the best NBA arenas.
Opened: December 31, 1999
A fairly new arena, the American Airlines Arena has still seen some pretty exciting moments from the Miami Heat.
But even going beyond the the South Beach Big Three, the American Airlines Arena has plenty to offer.
The Chicago Bulls embarrassed Miami badly on opening night for the 2006-07 season, blasting them by 42 points.
The silver lining was that Miami received championship rings for its 2005-06 season, where Shaquille O'Neal and, especially, Dwyane Wade led them to the title over the Mavericks. Their three-game home win streak in the 2006 NBA Finals put them back in the series, as Wade played like a man possessed.
Even in the 2004 postseason, the Heat delivered some pretty great basketball to remember, taking on the New Orleans Hornets in an underrated seven-game series. The trio of Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Wade took out the Hornets in a series of highly competitive, if low-scoring, games.
Opened: October 4, 1991
Those statues standing out front of the ESA pretty much tell you why this building is historic. For over 1000 regular and postseason games, John Stockton and Karl Malone ran what is perhaps the greatest, and certainly longest-lasting, tandem in NBA history. The two men led the Utah Jazz to two NBA Finals appearances, where they lost to the Chicago Bulls.
The Finals in 1998 did leave us with one of the most iconic moments in NBA history, though:Michael Jordan's series-winning dagger.
However, moving back to Stockton and Malone, the two men also shared All-Star MVP honors on their very own home court in 1993. That's just the way things worked in Utah back in the 1990s. You couldn't have one of these men without the other.
Opened: October 18, 2002
Replacing the Alamodome as the San Antonio Spurs' home, the AT&T Center has since been the site of three Spurs title runs and countless great moments.
Two that come to mind in favor of the Spurs are Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals and Game 1 of the 2008 Western Conference Finals.
In Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals, Tim Duncan delivered one of the greatest individual performance I've watched live. In a slugfest against the New Jersey Nets, with the Spurts up 3-2 in the series, Tim Duncan had 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks to totally smother the Nets and secure the title.
Meanwhile, Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals was against the Phoenix Suns. Ultimately, the Spurs won in double overtime. But the moment came at the end of the first OT, as Duncan knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game up.
One moments that will irk Spurs fans, but is nonetheless a titanic moment in NBA history, is Derek Fisher's shot with 0.4 seconds left to win Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals for the Los Angeles Lakers. What's often forgotten, though, is that Duncan also made a pretty ridiculous shot right before that to put the Spurs ahead.
Another moment is the knockdown-dragout Game 7 against the Mavericks in 2006. The Mavericks won that game in overtime after Dirk Nowitzki hit a twirling layup while being fouled and sank the ensuing shots. He finished with 37 points and 15 rebounds. Duncan had 41 points and 15 rebounds. A classic.
Opened: August 13, 1988
This arena likely doesn't immediately come to mind for historic NBA stadiums, but it truly is one of the jewels of the league. The Detroit Pistons have won three titles while in residence, and Hall of Famers like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman have played in its confines. Grant Hill, Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace have also brought in more exciting moments.
When your stadium can say that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Edwards battled it out at center in a Finals game, no way are you sinking below the top five. Also, the shocking upset of the 2004 Pistons upending the favored Lakers was a treat for all to see in the finals that year.
However, if I had to pick one moment for this stadium, it'd have to be Robert Horry's magnificent Game 5 performance in the 2005 Finals to swing the series in San Antonio's favor. Watching the scene unfold at the time, you kind of knew how it would end (Horry making a three to break Detroit's heart), but it was still thrilling to see how exactly it was going to happen.
Opened: October 17, 1999
The newest of the top five arenas, though it's definitely crammed in the historic moments, is Los Angeles' Staples Center. Although home to both the Lakers and the Clippers, we all know which team is carrying the historical weight around here.
The Lakers have secured five titles since the arena opened prior to the 1999-2000 season. Although numerous moments can be recalled, I'll settle for just three.
First, in the 2000 playoffs, the Lakers blew a 3-1 series lead and were down by 15 points in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against the Blazers. Then Kobe decided to find Shaq for a "boom goes the dynamite" alley oop. The Blazers were absolutely toast from that moment.
Second, in the 2002 playoffs, Robert Horry delivered the most memorable shot of what I earlier declared the most memorable series so far in the 2000s. Sure, it was the right place at the right time, but few would have drilled this shot if put in that moment.
Finally, there's Kobe Bryant's blistering 81-point assault on the hapless Toronto Raptors in the 2005-06 season. In the largest scoring outburst since Wilt Chamberlain released a 100-point bomb on the New York Knicks in 1962, Bryant was mesmerizing and tantalizing. He squared up and knocked down jumpers, threw down dunks and generally made Jalen Rose look absolutely helpless.
Opened: August 18, 1994
Only three teams in NBA history have won 69 or more games in a season. The 1971-72 Lakers put up 69 wins playing at the Great Western Forum.
The other two teams played at the United Center: the 1995-96 Bulls with 72 wins and the 1996-97 Bulls with 69 wins.
Both of those Chicago squads won the title, as did the 1997-98 incarnation. The Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen era ended after that third title, and rough times ensued, but in recent years, more dynamic, enthralling moments have cropped up to push the United Center further up the historic rankings.
A couple of my favorite moments at the United Center involve the 1990s champion Bulls and the new Derrick Rose cadre. That 1990s moment came in Game 6 of the 1997 Finals. With the Utah Jazz totally collapsing around Michael Jordan, His Airness kicked the ball out to a wide-open Steve Kerr, who nailed a 15-footer to seal the deal and win the title for Chicago.
Moving forward a decade, the Chicago Bulls entertained the Boston Celtics in a series that went seven games but also seemed like it had 20 overtimes. Game 6, though, provided the most grueling and exciting spectacle. Going three overtimes, the Bulls won 128-127 somehow surviving Ray Allen's 51-point outburst, which included nine three-pointers.
Opened: November 9, 1966
Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, is perhaps a surprising arena to be No. 2. But stop for a moment and consider that only one other NBA arena can claim to have had the following players lace up sneakers and hit the hardwood: Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor, Sam Jones, Pete Maravich, Elvin Hayes, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, George Gervin, Bob McAdoo, Billy Cunningham and on and on and on.
Just knowing that this is one of only two stadiums to have those names file through means something if you value history in the least.
Add in the hometown players like Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond, and this arena is steeped in history.
Sprinkle in the 1975 champion Warriors team that swept the heavily favored Washington Bullets in the finals, Sleepy Floyd's incendiary 1987 playoff performance and the We Believe Warriors of 2007 that upended the Dallas Mavericks in the first round, and Oracle Arena is well-deserving of this spot. A shame that the Warriors are leaving it behind in a few years for a new arena in San Francisco.
That means only one old-school arena will be left, and it rightly takes the No. 1 spot in this ranking.
Opened: February 11, 1968
Now in its fourth incarnation and only a year-and-a-half younger than Oracle Arena, the Knicks' Madison Square Garden takes home top honors by virtue of having two title teams and generally having more historic moments take place.
Willis Reed limping onto the court, Bernard King rumbling up the court for ferocious two-handed slams, Patrick Ewing's sweet jumper, Charles Oakley's grit, the woefully bad 2000s and now what looks to be a modest return to glory this season.
For all the history that's happened in MSG, I'll point you toward one moment that has been unfortunately looked over all too often.
It happened the very same game that Willis Reed limped onto the court in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Reed only scored four points that night, yet the Knicks still won.
That's thanks to Walt "Clyde" Frazier making a complete mess of the Los Angeles Lakers with 36 points and 19 assists.
In addition to the points and assists, Frazier absolutely terrorized the Lakers' ball-handlers coming up with numerous steals and basically burying Los Angeles by the time the second quarter began.
It's one of the all-time great performances in the NBA's most historic arena.