Courtside Views from Every NBA Arena
With television coverage at its zenith, with multiple angles and instant replay and HD footage, we like to think the best seat to an NBA game is the one in our living room.
But who of us wouldn't jump off that chair like Usain Bolt hearing a starter's pistol if someone offered us courtside tickets to watch our favorite team?
Since Larry Bird and Magic Johnson raised the public consciousness of the NBA, courtside ticket prices have raised accordingly. For example, in 1979, floor seats to a Los Angeles Lakers game cost a mere $15. Today, those same seats have a face value of $2,750. So a season ticket on the floor, which includes preseason, will set you back in the neighborhood of $120,000.
It's a wonder Jack Nicholson can even afford them.
So unless you're among the scant privileged few to whom a celebrity, dignitary or mogul has extended a ticket—reminiscent of God reaching out to Adam—you'll never get as close to the hardwood as you'll get on the next 30 slides.
NOTE: I'll attempt to list how much seats cost, but many franchises keep their high-end floor seat prices private. Unless I got information from the team or the NBA itself, or a reasonably current newspaper, I called the price "estimated." So let's make this interactive: If you have information on a courtside seat price that supersedes what's contained herein, and you can provide credible proof (in the form of a link), I'll amend my number and give you credit in the article.
It's a tribute to the league's success that the status symbol of American sports at this moment in time is having courtside NBA seats. But folks who don't have that status commonly take comfort in knowing we're sitting on a plush, cozy couch, while the swells on the floor are in painful metal folding chairs.
Sorry to slash your couch cushions, but it just ain't so.
Not since La-Z-Boy invented the recliner have seats this simple been this relaxing. Many courtside chairs are leather; some contain Tempur-Pedic material. All contain plenty of cush for the tush—not to mention the rest of the body.
"Bottom" line: These seats are as comfortable as they are pricey.
That's just one more reason to envy the guys who get to park themselves in one game after game.
Air Canada Centre: Toronto Raptors
One thing that's instantly brought home when you sit courtside is just how massive these guys are, like Tim Duncan looks here waiting to inbound the ball.
Larry Bird dove for a loose ball near me one lucky courtside evening, and as he stood back up, he just kept going and going and going. The guy really was 6'9"—despite how small he looked on TV.
Here's a nice piece from a National Post writer on realizing the same thing as he sat courtside at a Toronto Raptors game.
Price per game: from $510 to $1,568 (when the Lakers or Heat are in town).
American Airlines Arena: Miami Heat
It doesn't get much better than American Airlines Arena for a Heat game. Not only are you in colorful, festive and toasty-warm Miami, but you also get to enjoy LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for the price of one courtside ducat.
That price was pretty steep when the NBA's reigning Terrific Trio made its Heat debut in 2010. A ticket on the floor went for about $12,000.
Today the cost for most courtside Heat seats has gone down significantly, while the quality of play is higher than ever. But you'll still likely have to be involved in some Miami Vice-style illicit behavior to be able to afford one.
American Airlines Center: Dallas Mavericks
In 2001, the American Airlines Center went into the Guinness Book of World Records with the Longest Ribbon and Largest Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony ever.
Back then, Dirk Nowitzki was just a third-year player, albeit well on his way to becoming the phenom who led his team to one NBA Championship (and it should have been two, but that's another story).
There's very scant information on floor seat prices for Mavericks games. Maybe that's because with all the oil money down in Dallas, they're never available.
Well, maybe not never: Now that the great J.R. Ewing (rest in peace, Larry Hagman) has passed on to the great Southfork Ranch in the sky, a courtside ticket might have just opened up.
Estimated price per game: from $200 to ?.
Amway Center: Orlando Magic
One of the newer arenas in the NBA, the Amway Center opened in 2010 and was host to last year's NBA All-Star Game.
Unfortunately, it's also been host to the Stan Van Gundy-Dwight Howard feud, along with Howard's departure. Nikola Vucevic is a candidate this year for Most Improved Player, so maybe things will be looking up for the Magic.
And by the way, the owner of the Orlando Magic is indeed the founder of Amway, Richard DeVos. Does that mean that I can sign people up to sell floor seats below me and make a commission on every one they sell?
Price per game: from $700 to ?.
AT&T Center: San Antonio Spurs
(Courtesy of Benjamin Nicholas)
Remember the Alamodome? That's where the Spurs got their incredible dynasty really revved up, after leaving the HemisFair with 47- and 49-win seasons consecutively. The Alamodome was where the Spurs won their first championship.
But they've won their three other titles at the former SBC Center, including christening it with a Larry O'Brien Trophy in its first year of existence.
This would be one of the few courtside seats I'd pay to see; the city of San Antonio is underrated and beautiful, and seeing Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili up close before they retire would be a treasured memory.
Estimated price per seat: $550 to $1,000
Bankers Life Fieldhouse: Indiana Pacers
This shot features an obstacle the swells have to deal with, unlike us beer-guzzling commoners watching on the telly: the cameraman. Take that, fat cats.
Most NBA arenas have horrific corporate names nowadays, but none more stultifying than the Pacers' home turf. Can you imagine anything more boring-sounding than a banker's life?
At least they had the basketball perspicacity to add the word "fieldhouse." Nice touch.
In direct contrast to the name, the arena has often been named the best NBA venue. That's for the building itself. But this year, guys like Roy Hibbert, David West and the sparkling Paul George make the Pacers one of the best squads to watch in the NBA.
How people in little pink houses afford these floor seats, though, is anybody's guess.
Estimated price per seat: $600
Barclays Center: Brooklyn Nets
There was a time in the Brooklyn Nets' short history when they were undefeated when minority owner Jay-Z's lovely bride Beyoncé showed up to games.
That streak is now over, but the squad, led by a resurgent and less recalcitrant Deron Williams, is legitimate. In the next couple of years, these guys just might put a ring on it.
The NBA's newest arena is in the coolest venue: Brooklyn, home of the Sweathogs and birthplace of Michael Jordan. This would be the nation's fourth largest city were it an independent metropolis. The team's move was long overdue.
Celebrities who can afford to sit courtside include Jimmy Fallon, Ethan Hawke and Patrick Stewart.
Price per game: from $475 to $1,250+*
*Courtside rows A and B Center, and something called "Hollywood A" and "Hollywood B" simply say "call for details."
BMO Harris Bradley Center: Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks play in one of the oldest arenas in the NBA, but they've got one of the most intriguing rosters in the league.
With Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Larry Sanders, the impressive Ersan Ilyasova and recently acquired J.J. Redick, this team's got the talent to make some noise in the playoffs. The fact that they've been blown out of games an inordinate number of times this season, though, is concerning.
Speaking of blowouts, courtside seats must be sky-high, because they appear to be top-secret. Don't believe online data that estimate $200—the price of seats in the first row of the stands—are close to the price of floor seats.
Estimated price per game: $400 to $1500
Chesapeake Energy Arena: Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City's Chesapeake Energy Arena was kind enough to welcome the New Orleans Hornets after Hurricane Katrina; the team played home games there for two years. The impressive turnout for their games is rumored to have led to the Seattle Supersonics relocating there and becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder are the second-highest scoring team in the NBA and look for all the world like they intend to avenge their loss in last year's NBA Finals to the Miami Heat.
Anyone—even Li'l Wayne—is welcome to sit courtside, as long as you can pony up the dough.
Poorly estimated price per seat: $2,500
EnergySolutions Arena: Utah Jazz
The official name of the Utah Jazz homecourt is the Larry H. Miller Court at EnergySolutions Arena, after the late Jazz owner Larry Miller, but I don't think that would have fit in my headline area.
I miss "the Salt Palace," the awesome name of the Jazz's former home, but I'm sure the bean-counters don't miss their former venue's smaller size—the old place could only house a little over 12,000 fans. Seven thousand more paying customers can see games at EnergySolutions Arena.
The Jazz are only a half-game out of the playoffs, but they have to pass the mighty Los Angeles Lakers to make it in.
Estimated price per seat: $300 to $1,500
FedExForum: Memphis Grizzlies
This roster has serious firepower, from the down-low presence of Zach Randolph, to the steady shooting of Tayshaun Prince, to assist-minded center Marc Gasol.
Floor seats are an equally serious bargain. The Grizzlies are currently the fifth seed in the playoffs, yet courtside viewing is readily available—for less than any other venue I've seen. This could be because the FedEx Forum was designed with an incredible 1,000 courtside seats.
It also could be because the opponent for the game I checked was the Charlotte Bobcats.
Estimated price per seat: $175 to ?
Madison Square Garden: New York Knicks
Since the demise of Boston Gardens, this is likely the most storied venue in the NBA.
Opened in 1968, the arena is smack-dab in the middle of Manhattan, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues and 31st to 33rd Street, and sits above Penn Station, the terminal of the Long Island Railroad. Some of the most legendary concerts in history have been here, so many that it's too long to list here.
Some of the most legendary teams in NBA history have played here as well. But it's been a long time since the Knicks were relevant—way too long for the most major media market in the United States. In fact, the 2010-2011 season was the first since before 9/11 that the team finished over .500.
This year's squad, though, is in second place in the Eastern Conference and is likely to advance in the playoffs. In other words, even if you were able to get a floor seat, you wouldn't be in it for long. (Because you'd be standing on your feet cheering. Get it?)
New Orleans Arena: New Orleans Pelicans (Née Hornets)
The New Orleans Arena, like its assemblage, is surprisingly hardy. The arena suffered only minimal structural damage and resumed activity about a month after Hurricane Katrina, even though the team played the next two seasons in Oklahoma City.
The last four seasons, the Hornets were a true up-and-down team, with banner years in 2007-08 and 2009-10, and lackluster records in 2008-09 and 2010-11. This year the team will likely finish with fewer than 30 victories.
That means next season's Pelicans debut should get off to a flying start.
Estimated price per seat: $350 to $1,700
Oracle Arena: Golden State Warriors
The oldest venue in the NBA, Oracle Arena has been a full-time home to the Warriors since 1971, except for a brief period allowing for massive renovations to the venerable edifice.
The name is ironic because an oracle couldn't have predicted the success the Warriors have enjoyed this season. Barring a historic collapse, the team will make the playoffs: a boost to the Bay Area residents.
Golden State's bet on Andrew Bogut is finally starting to pay off. If the team picks up steam in the playoffs, it could be an upset surprise, in which case, you literally couldn't buy a floor seat.
Estimated price per seat: $150 to $750
Pepsi Center: Denver Nuggets
Injuries are one of the downsides to sitting on the floor. Like it or not (unless you're a psychopath, I'm hoping not), you're going to see all the aches and breaks and sprains and pains, up close and personal—like Danilo Gallinari's unfortunate torn ACL.
The Nuggets have surged to the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference, so the floor seat ticket cost I'm about to quote will probably go sky-high—or should I say mile-high—in the next week or so.
Price per seat: $474
Philips Arena: Atlanta Hawks
Built on the site of the Hawks' former habitat, the Omni, Philips Arena's exterior has a neat design feature: steel pillars on one edge spell out "Atlanta" and on the other side spell out "CNN."
The team certainly hopes the reference to the news network is auspicious as it vies to make news by advancing past the second round of the playoffs. Since the Hawks moved to Atlanta from St. Louis in 1968, they have never accomplished the feat.
To do it, they'd likely have to polish off the Indiana Pacers, followed by the New York Knicks. And the Miami Heat would almost certainly be waiting for them were they to pull off two upsets in a row. But with Josh Smith's future uncertain, the Hawks would do well to put the pedal to the metal come playoff time.
Price per seat: $450
Quicken Loans Arena: Cleveland Cavaliers
For years, Cavaliers fans sitting courtside got faces full of white dust while LeBron James perfected his cloud-inducing hand-clap. That was, of course, before the nation Witnessed him take his chalk to South Beach.
The Quicken Loans Arena, or the "Q" as it's commonly and colloquially called, is chock-full of new and budding superstars now: Kyrie Irving is a player/personality the league could hitch its wagon to in the next decade, Dion Waiters is a future All-Star and Tristan Thompson is an up-and-comer.
With more experience, Anderson Varejao hopefully coming back healthy and a high draft pick, this floor seat is another one I'd pay money for. In a few years, when these guys are on top of the Eastern Conference, you won't be able to get a seat.
And you'll regret not jumping at the chance.
Estimated price per game: $150 to $500+
Rose Garden: Portland Trail Blazers
This is one of the handful of arenas I've seen games in. The name reminds me not only of Portland's stunning International Rose Test Garden, but of a simpler day, when arenas were named because of meaning (Portland's nickname is the City of Roses) rather than money.
What stands out in the Rose Garden is the sound. I've never heard a stadium that got as loud with so few people—it was a sellout, but 20,000 sounded like 80,000. I found out in my research for this article that it's because of what's known as an Acoustical Cloud: 160 panels of customized acoustical treatments suspended above the event floor.
With Damian Lillard, the seeming shoo-in for Rookie of the Year, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicholas Batum, the road back to the playoffs will be short for the Blazers.
Estimated price per seat: $295 to $434
Sleep Train Arena: Sacramento Kings
If you want a floor seat to an NBA game at Sleep Train Arena, you may only have a couple more games to make your dream a reality.
The team still has a realistic chance of moving to Seattle. Even if it stays, the Sacramento City Council approved over $250 million to contribute toward a new arena, so the end of the line for the Sleep Train could be near. (And hey, can someone tell me why the city is fighting so hard to keep this punching bag of a squad in Sac-Town in the first place?)
I'd have to say this is perhaps the worst stadium name in all of sports. Given the Kings' level of play, maybe it's an apt moniker.
The courtside seats, however, may have the best name: They're called Kings Row. Nice.
Anyway, if you're a glutton for punishment, I'm guessing floor seats can be had quite easily.
Price per seat: $250 to ?
Staples Center: Los Angeles Clippers / Los Angeles Lakers
If you're on the floor at the Staples Center, I have but two questions for you: a) Can I have your autograph? b) Can I have a loan?
Dotted with Hollywood luminaries and billionaire tycoons—here's a map so you can gawk and gape at your leisure—Lakers floor seats are the place in LA to see and be seen. They're also the toughest seats in town to score, since there are so few of them.
If you really have a hankering for floor seats at the arena, I'd tell you to opt for Clippers tickets instead, which is what I did about five years ago. But they're not much of a savings nowadays, and in fact, I've heard they can be even pricier than Lakers tickets.
That ought to tell you which team is ahead in the standings.
Estimated price per seat (Lakers): $2,750 to ?
Estimated price per seat (Clippers): $1,000 to $3,000 (when they're playing the Lakers)
Target Center: Minnesota Timberwolves
If you spend your many hundreds on courtside seats at the Target Center, you can take comfort knowing your money is going to support the NBA's first green roof.
Unfortunately, green is also the color of T-Wolves fans' faces this season, as the talented roster, almost certainly destined for a high playoff seed, lost Kevin Love—just one of their many injuries this season—and are ping-pong bound.
Kind of ironic to be talking about floor seats, since the bottom fell out on this franchise this year. But sit up straight if you're sitting courtside, because these guys will be back in a hurry—and with a vengeance.
Price per seat: $655 to $1380
TD Bank Garden: Boston Celtics
This is one of my favorite Instagram shots. Converse Chuck Purcell All-Stars may have never looked so cool.
The fabled parquet floor on which your feet will be treading only contains bits and pieces of the one upon which Larry Bird established his legend. The Boston Garden floor was originally moved here, but was retired in 1999. The pieces that weren't sold as memorabilia were integrated into the current floor.
The first concert to ever play this venue was R.E.M., which is appropriate because on the Celtics right now, it seems "Everybody Hurts". Despite losing Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa for the season, the Celtics are somehow clinging to a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, and, despite the cramped quarters of their M*A*S*H unit, will make the playoffs.
Knock on fabled parquet.
Estimated price per seat: $1,200
The Palace of Auburn Hills: Detroit Pistons
As I previously mentioned, when I sat courtside here, Larry Bird almost fell into my lap going for a loose ball. I also sat right near Kim Fields (who apparently was Tootie from "The Facts of Life"); she had, well, blossomed a great deal since her show had ended, a fact which I can assure you was not lost on the Palace faithful.
I was told there was a time when this was the most thrilling seat in all of basketball, both because of the on-court action and the off-court pyrotechnics. The salad days are in the rear-view mirror, but Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are going to be the most impressive backcourt in the NBA in very short order.
Price per seat: $395 to ?
Time Warner Cable Arena: Charlotte Bobcats
The 2012 Democratic National Convention was held here. Arena owners would have been smart to record the cheers and pump them into Bobcats games. Fans have nothing else to cheer about.
Courtside seats to a Bobcats game, I would imagine, must be like a balcony view on the Titanic. This season has been a disaster—and it hasn't been the first.
It might, however, be the last for a while: Charlotte will likely get the first overall draft pick, or at least a high one if the balls don't bounce its way. It's also rumored to be close to $20 million under the salary cap.
Estimated price per seat: $600 to $1,000
Toyota Center: Houston Rockets
If anyone's got courtside to see these cats, holla. These are my guys.
The Toyota Center has been buzzing all season about the run-and-gun style of the Rockets. The team is tied for first in the league in offense.
James Harden has been transcendent, Omer Asik is perhaps the sleeper signing of the year, Jeremy Lin adds hustle, positivity and leadership, and Chandler Parsons is quickly becoming one of the best small forwards in the NBA.
In case it's not obvious: I'm a Rocket man.
Estimated price per seat: $400 to $2500
United Center: Chicago Bulls
Fifteen years ago, when a shaven-headed tongue-wagging fellow by the name of Jordan was pursuing perfection, this was the premier ticket in the NBA. This season, the stalwart Bulls have weathered the absence of Derrick Rose and sit in the fifth spot for the playoffs.
It's Chicago, so you'll see more CEOs than celebrities, but having floor seats here are like walking into kindergarten with that box of 64 crayons with the built-in sharpener: a clear sign you're not in the hoi polloi.
Rose may not make it back for the playoffs, but this team is loaded, and as long as Rose comes back healthy next year, the Heat may not be atop the Eastern Conference for long.
Estimated price per seat: $1,000 to ?
US Airways Center: Phoenix Suns
Is it me, or is it strange to see the Phoenix Suns as cellar-dwellers?
I look at this roster expecting to see familiar names I know are elsewhere, and instead I see Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Wesley Johnson... It's enough to give one vertigo. Or at least make one purple with rage.
Needless to say, floor seats to a Suns game cannot be in terribly high demand. Yet I cannot find any reliable current information on prices. The prices I'm posting below are from 2007. For the fans' sake, I hope they've plummeted to match the team's freefall.
Estimated price per seat: $1,855
Verizon Center: Washington Wizards
Located atop a Washington metro stop, the Verizon Center is a beautiful spot to see a basketball game. Too often, though, courtside viewers had to have been shutting their eyes as this once-proud franchise floundered.
If I close my eyes, I can still see Gilbert Arenas popping from outside here, or Antawn Jamison pulling down a rebound. That's probably because I want to forget the last four years of misery...well, five including this one.
But if that hit you below the Beltway, let me soften the blow: There is hope a-dawning. John Wall is back on the court and finally often looking like the player we thought he'd be, and a healthy Bradley Beal will return next year to give the Wizards a very solid backcourt.
For the record: I abhor the name "Wizards," and I have always resented the franchise for giving in to public sentiment about changing the name. After all, the "Bullets" moniker was not glorifying gunfire; it was an homage to the Bata Bullets shoe factory, which was located a short distance from the the old Baltimore Bullets arena and employed thousands of local residents.
Now, instead of showing appreciation for the hand that feeds them, the franchise sounds like its strategy is to Harry Potter the opposition into submission. Somehow, I think they'd be better off as the Washington We Who Must Not Be Named.
Price per seat: $850 to $2,500
Wells Fargo Center: Philadelphia 76ers
And the Sixers had the nerve to raise ticket prices.
The absolute turd of a trade that brought a useless Andrew Bynum to the City of Brotherly Love gutted the 76ers to their core. Just mention the name Nikola to a Philly fan and watch him try to claw his own eyes out—or worse yet, yours.
Amazingly, the Sixers will likely be the best squad not to make the Eastern Conference playoffs, so that bodes well for next year. Thaddeus Young has been productive, but the team's success this year despite the Bynum Bungle is mostly due to the ascendance of one Jrue Holiday, who absolutely took his game to a new level and surprised plenty, including myself.
Holiday's got such an incredible two-way game that he's almost as fun to watch as the last great Sixers guard, Allen Iverson, my favorite point guard of all time.
You know what he'd say right now, don't ya? "Holiday? Y'all talkin' about Holiday?"
Yeah, AI. He's that good.
Estimated price per seat: $750 to $4000+