Ranking the Ultimate NBA Fan Experiences
In a world of NBA League Pass, 3D and HD televisions, comfy couches and high-speed internet that lets you check on your fantasy team almost before LeBron James has thrown down his latest dunk, NBA arenas have to step up their games if they're going to draw you through their doors.
They have to be affordable. They can't overcharge you for food, beverages and merchandise. The environment has to be exciting, and the arena sparking.
And, of course, the on-court product should probably be pretty stellar.
Using those five categories, I've compiled a set of rankings that shows you exactly who is doing the best job of getting you into one of those fold-down seats so that you can listen to the PA announcers, watch the dancers, participate in the Kiss Cam festivities and, most importantly, look on and cheer as your favorite team goes to work.
Basically, we're looking at which of the 30 organizations in the Association has the best fan experience.
Over the next 11 slides, you'll see the process behind the rankings laid out in detailed fashion. I'll go over how each of the five categories was calculated, where the teams rank for every one and then how the overall fan experience score was determined.
After that, we'll count down from No. 30 to No. 1.
Here's hoping your hometown team doesn't let you down.
To get to an NBA game, you have to buy tickets. There's just no way around that, which makes it one of the most important categories to the overall fan experience.
In order to rank teams for affordability, I looked both at the average cost of attendance and the luxury experience.
The former was the sum of the average ticket price and average parking price, as determined by the most recent report from the Fan Cost Experience. According to the report:
Average ticket price represents a weighted average of season ticket prices for general seating categories, determined by factoring the tickets in each price range as a percentage of the total number of seats in each stadium. Premium seating (tickets that come with at least one added amenity) are not included in the ticket average, and for the NBA, not included in the chart. Luxury suites are also excluded from the survey.
The luxury experience was a bit more difficult to calculate.
To determine it, I looked at StubHub's top price of each team's courtside seats for a home game against the Miami Heat, excluding clear outliers like the $1 million seats that the Los Angeles Lakers were offering.
The Heat were chosen because they ranked No. 1 in away attendance percentage last year, making them the most popular squad to see on the road. For Miami—since the Heat obviously can't play themselves—the Lakers were used, as they finished No. 2 in away attendance percentage.
Because more people avoid that luxury experience than the ones who seek it out, the average cost was weighted much more heavily.
Accordingly, affordability score was calculated by multiplying the team's rank in average cost of attendance by four and then adding it to the rank in luxury experience. A perfect score would be five, and no team scored lower than 18.
- Memphis Grizzlies, 18
- Atlanta Hawks, 19
- Indiana Pacers, 26
- Charlotte Bobcats, 29
- Detroit Pistons, 30
- Minnesota Timberwolves, 33
- Philadelphia 76ers, 37
- Orlando Magic, 43
New Orleans Pelicans, 43
- Cleveland Cavaliers, 44
- Oklahoma City Thunder, 58
- Sacramento Kings, 59
- Utah Jazz, 68
- Washington Wizards, 72
- Portland Trail Blazers, 73
- Houston Rockets, 78
- Golden State Warriors, 81
- Toronto Raptors, 85
- Milwaukee Bucks, 90
- San Antonio Spurs, 96
Phoenix Suns, 96
- Denver Nuggets, 100
- Dallas Mavericks, 107
- Chicago Bulls, 121
- Brooklyn Nets, 122
- Los Angeles Clippers, 127
- Boston Celtics, 130
- Miami Heat, 142
- Los Angeles Lakers, 144
- New York Knicks, 149
Below you can see how all 30 teams stacked up in terms of affordability:
Once you're inside an NBA arena, you still might want to spend some money.
See that beer that Leonardo DiCaprio is drinking at a Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder playoff game? Even though he's a movie star, he still had to buy it. And that's why discretionary spending matters.
You aren't forced to spend money on food, beverages and merchandise when you attend an NBA game, but quite a few people still want to do so.
I looked at the prices of four different items to determine a score in this category: hats (representing merchandise), hot dogs (representing food), a standard 16-ounce beer and a 16-ounce soda, as determined by the most recent report from the Fan Cost Experience. Each team was ranked from No. 1 to No. 30 for each type of item, and then multipliers were applied.
Hats weren't considered as important as everything else because fewer people buy merchandise in arenas, and beer was obviously the most important.
It's beer. C'mon now.
A team's discretionary spending score was determined by multiplying the rank for each item by the multiplier and then adding up the products.
A perfect score here would be 23, and the No. 1 team checked in at 55.
Discretionary Spending Rankings
- Detroit Pistons, 55
- San Antonio Spurs, 148
- Utah Jazz, 155
- Phoenix Suns, 157
- Orlando Magic, 161
- Oklahoma City Thunder, 172
- Dallas Mavericks, 201
- Indiana Pacers, 202
- Denver Nuggets, 209
- Sacramento Kings, 271
- Charlotte Bobcats, 279
- Atlanta Hawks, 291
- Miami Heat, 295
- New Orleans Pelicans, 307
- Golden State Warriors, 351
Washington Wizards, 351
- Memphis Grizzlies, 361
- Milwaukee Bucks, 373
- Philadelphia 76ers, 398
- Houston Rockets, 424
- Boston Celtics, 475
- New York Knicks, 485
- Chicago Bulls, 490
- Toronto Raptors, 491
- Brooklyn Nets, 494
- Los Angeles Clippers, 497
- Portland Trail Blazers, 503
- Los Angeles Lakers, 517
- Cleveland Cavaliers, 531
- Minnesota Timberwolves, 532
Below you can see how all 30 teams stacked up in terms of discretionary spending:
When you go to an NBA game, you usually want to be entertained, and not just by the product actually playing basketball on the hardwood.
The environment is quite important to the experience. To quantify this, I looked at five different factors, two of which are pretty simple.
First, we have the percentage of the stadium that gets filled up during an average home game. We have no way to predict this for the 2013-14 season, but we can look back at the 2012-13 numbers to determine the rankings, courtesy of ESPN.
Secondly, we have what's referred to as social media equity, as calculated and ranked by Emory Sports Marketing Analytics. Here's part of what Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi had to say about this process:
We then created a statistical model that predicts these measures of social media engagement [Facebook and Twitter activity] as a function of market size, tweeting activity and team performance for this past season and for the season before that. We then compared each team’s actual follows and likes against the model predictions. This method attempts to control for short term fluctuations in winning percentage and market differences.
Essentially, social media equity shows the fanbase's engagement on social media, which I'm using to represent their passion for the team.
The other three categories are all combined into one number, which I'm calling "stadium environment score," or SES. And here's where I have to give a massive shoutout to StadiumJourney.com, a fantastic website that provides reviews of every stadium you can possibly think of.
Each review (you can view the San Antonio Spurs here, as an example) contains scores out of five for the food and beverage, the atmosphere and the fans themselves. SES was calculated as such:
SES = (Food and beverage score) + 2*(atmosphere score) + 4*(fans score)
From there, it was time to combine everything. And that was done by letting social media equity account for 10 percent of the final score, and the other two components (SES and percent home attendance) take up 45 percent each.
A perfect score here would be 10, and our No. 1 team finished at 37.
- Los Angeles Lakers, 37
- Miami Heat, 47
- Oklahoma City Thunder, 57
- San Antonio Spurs, 65.5
- Portland Trail Blazers, 76.5
- Golden State Warriors, 77
- Brooklyn Nets, 82.5
- Chicago Bulls, 90.5
- Los Angeles Clippers, 106.5
- Utah Jazz, 109
- New York Knicks, 117
- Boston Celtics, 120
- Dallas Mavericks, 121
- Denver Nuggets, 133
- Orlando Magic, 134.5
- Houston Rockets, 144.5
- Philadelphia 76ers, 150.5
- Toronto Raptors, 186.5
- Milwaukee Bucks, 188
- Charlotte Bobcats, 188.5
- Washington Wizards, 195
- Minnesota Timberwolves, 197
- Atlanta Hawks, 203.5
- New Orleans Pelicans, 213
- Indiana Pacers, 223.5
- Memphis Grizzlies, 231.5
- Phoenix Suns, 242
- Cleveland Cavaliers, 253
- Sacramento Kings, 263.5
- Detroit Pistons, 279
Below you can see how all 30 teams stacked up in terms of environment:
- Age of the arena (historical appeal is a positive)
- Most recent renovation (freshness is also a positive)
- History in the building (determined by championships won)
- Size of the capacity crowd
- Aesthetic appeal
What makes an NBA arena great?
It's a tough question, and it can't be answered in just one sentence. Instead, you have to look at quite a few factors:
All of these are quite important to the overall quality of the arena, so they were all accounted for. As for aesthetic appeal, that was determined in a different fashion than the others, which are much more black and white.
Due to the inherent subjectivity of this aspect, I had a four-person panel rate each of the stadiums for aesthetic appeal. Bretton McIlrath (a good friend of mine), Dan Favale (a B/R Featured Columnist), Ben Leibowitz (another B/R FC) and I all gave each stadium a score ranging from one to 100, with the latter representing perfection. Everything was accounted for, from the exterior to the interior to everything in between.
Finally, there was one more category included: StadiumJourney.com's ranking of each stadium. The site has a correspondent go to each arena and rate it, so this professional opinion was used as a de facto tiebreaker.
But the rankings for each of the six factors didn't stand on its own. Instead, they were multiplied by numbers that reflected each factor's importance to the overall arena score. You can see those multipliers below:
|Recency of last renovation||2.0|
|History in building||1.0|
The total arena score was determined by multiplying each team's rank for each factor by the corresponding multiplier and then summing those products.
A perfect score here would be 13.5, and our No. 1 arena checked in at 87.
- New York Knicks/Madison Square Garden, 87
- Miami Heat/AmericanAirlines Arena, 115.5
- Los Angeles Lakers/Staples Center, 134.5
- Golden State Warriors/Oracle Arena, 148.5
- Philadelphia 76ers/Wells Fargo Center, 151.5
- Brooklyn Nets/Barclays Center, 154
- Portland Trail Blazers/Moda Center, 154.5
- Phoenix Suns/US Airways Center, 159
- Dallas Mavericks/American Airlines Center, 161.5
- Los Angeles Clippers/Staples Center, 162.5
- Boston Celtics/TD Garden, 171.5
- Chicago Bulls/United Center, 173.5
- Orlando Magic/Amway Center, 174.5
- Minnesota Timberwolves/Target Center, 181
- Denver Nuggets/Pepsi Center, 184.5
- Detroit Pistons/The Palace of Auburn Hills, 189.5
- San Antonio Spurs/AT&T Center, 197
- Atlanta Hawks/Philips Arena, 208.5
- Toronto Raptors/Air Canada Centre, 209.5
- Cleveland Cavaliers/Quicken Loans Arena, 224.5
- Memphis Grizzlies/FedExForum, 227.5
- Charlotte Bobcats/Time Warner Cable Arena, 231
- Utah Jazz/EnergySolutions Arena, 234.5
Indiana Pacers/Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 234.5
- Oklahoma City Thunder/Chesapeake Energy Arena, 235
- Washington Wizards/Verizon Center, 238
- Houston Rockets/Toyota Center, 249
- New Orleans Pelicans/New Orleans Arena, 289.5
- Milwaukee Bucks/BMO Harris Bradley Center, 298.5
- Sacramento Kings/Sleep Train Arena, 332.5
Below you can see how all 30 teams stacked up in terms of the arena:
In order to determine the product portion of the rankings, seven different factors were looked at.
Six of them were historical: seasons of existence, playoff appearances, championships won, all-time winning percentage, historical All-Star selections and Hall of Famers who have suited up for the franchise. These were used to determine the legacy of the team, as ones that have been around for longer and have experienced more success tend to have more appeal.
Teams were ranked from No. 1 through No. 30 in all six categories (which were weighted evenly and used data from Basketball-Reference.com). Those rankings were then averaged to determine the historical component of the product.
Of course, the current product matters quite a bit. Who wants to go see a team that isn't very competitive?
In order to determine current appeal, I looked at three different sets of record projections: my own, Dan Favale's on Bleacher Report and the one stemming from an ESPN panel. The average number of projected wins was treated as the score for current product, and the teams were once more ranked from No. 1 through No. 30.
Historical and current appeal did not count evenly, though.
Because the 2013-14 product is significantly more likely to draw in fans, it was accounted for three times as much as the history of the team, so the product score was three times the rank of the current product plus the rank of the historical product.
A perfect score here would be a four, and our No. 1 team checked in at 19.17.
- Oklahoma City Thunder, 19.17
- San Antonio Spurs, 19.83
- Miami Heat, 21.50
- Chicago Bulls, 24.83
- Indiana Pacers, 29.67
- Los Angeles Clippers, 31.67
- Golden State Warriors, 32.67
- Houston Rockets, 36.00
- Brooklyn Nets, 37.33
- New York Knicks, 39.67
- Atlanta Hawks, 47.83
- Denver Nuggets, 50.50
- Memphis Grizzlies, 56.83
- Detroit Pistons, 58.00
- Los Angeles Lakers, 59.00
- Portland Trail Blazers, 62.50
- Minnesota Timberwolves, 64.83
- Cleveland Cavaliers, 66.00
- Washington Wizards, 68.33
- Dallas Mavericks, 76.33
- Boston Celtics, 79.33
- Sacramento Kings, 79.50
- New Orleans Pelicans, 80.33
- Utah Jazz, 88.00
- Milwaukee Bucks, 88.67
- Toronto Raptors, 92.00
- Philadelphia 76ers, 95.33
- Phoenix Suns, 100.17
- Orlando Magic, 105.67
- Charlotte Bobcats, 109.00
Below you can see how all 30 teams stacked up in terms of product:
Overall Fan Experience Score
- Average cost of attendance, 17.42 percent
- Percent home attendance, 9.46 percent
- Average beer price, 7.22 percent
- Adam Fromal's projected wins, 5.9 percent
Dan Favale's projected wins, 5.9 percent
ESPN's projected wins, 5.9 percent
- Fan score, 5.41 percent
- Arena's aesthetic appeal, 5.03 percent
- Cost of luxury attendance, 4.35 percent
- Average hot dog price, 4.33 percent
Average soda price, 4.33 percent
- Capacity crowd, 3.77 percent
- Atmosphere score, 2.7 percent
- Recency of last renovation, 2.51 percent
StadiumJourney.com ranking, 2.51 percent
- Social media equity, 2.1 percent
- Stadium age, 1.89 percent
- Food and beverage score, 1.35 percent
- Championships won in arena, 1.26 percent
- Number of seasons in team history, 0.98 percent
Historical playoff appearances, 0.98 percent
Number of championships won, 0.98 percent
All-time winning percentage, 0.98 percent
Historical All-Star selections, 0.98 percent
Hall of Famers in franchise history, 0.98 percent
- Average hat price, 0.72 percent
The final number that was used to rank the 30 teams in the NBA was derived from the ranks in each of the five categories.
Once a team had received a ranking for affordability, discretionary spending, the environment, the arena and the product, those rankings were adjusted by multipliers for importance and then added together.
Below you can see how our eight-person panel rated each category in terms of importance on a one-to-10 scale, with 10 being most important:
As you can tell, product and affordability were most important, while discretionary spending didn't seem to matter as much to our panel.
Because the overall score is simply the sum of each rank multiplied by its importance, a "perfect" score is 33.875. That can only be achieved by finishing at No. 1 in all five categories, which no team came close to doing. In fact, our top fan experience received a score more than 250 points shy of perfection.
Below you can find every component of the rankings, as well as the percentage of the final fan experience score that it accounted for.
Now that the methodology is all laid out for you, let's take a look at the rankings themselves.
30. Milwaukee Bucks
Although it's pretty easy to go to a Milwaukee Bucks game in style, seeing the new court design up close without truly breaking the bank, the average contest is more expensive than it should be.
Between the $18 parking and the ticket price that checks in just under $50, that's more than a team this far down in the rankings needs to be charging.
If you're going to a Milwaukee game, how you feel about spending your money is really just going to depend on what day it is. The prices certainly don't prohibit treating yourself to a few beers or a hot dog and a soda, but they don't make it easy on you to do so, either.
Across the board, the BMO Harris Bradley Center has competitive prices that won't blow you away. The beer prices basically sum everything up, as the average of $6.50 per 16 ounces comes in at No. 16 among the 30 NBA arenas.
As you might expect in a city like Milwaukee (the MLB team is called the Brewers for a reason), the beer is excellent, and there's a wide variety available to the general public. However, the food options are a little more limited, and the high-quality specialty items are only available at one place throughout the arena.
While the Bucks are quite good at using social media to engage fans, it's sometimes a struggle to fill the arena with passionate basketball fans. Last season, only 80.3 percent of the stadium filled during home games, and the ones who show up don't tend to be loud until the team is ahead.
Even the new floor isn't going to help much here.
The BMO Harris Bradley Center hasn't been renovated since 1988, and it just isn't a very good-looking building, receiving a league-worst score of 47.5 percent aesthetic appeal, according to our panel of judges.
Quite frankly, it's tough to get excited about this arena. The name isn't sexy, and neither is the building.
Milwaukee, once more, is very mediocre in this area. Unfortunately, the team has seemed content to settle for exactly that over the last few years: mediocrity. Moves aren't made to earn a high draft pick, and the franchise has proven unable to recruit top-level talent.
This team has a little bit of history working in its favor, hearkening all the way back to the days of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, but it's been a while since the franchise has truly been competitive.
That doesn't figure to change in 2013-14, even if Brandon Knight and Larry Sanders help the squad exceed expectations.
29. Toronto Raptors
Parking comes at a premium for the Toronto Raptors.
With an average price of $19.44 (after the conversion to US dollars, of course), Toronto had the seventh-most expensive parking among the NBA's 30 teams, and the ticket prices weren't quite enough to save them in the category.
Apparently, the conversion rates from Canada to the United States don't work in the Raptors' favor. Everything is pretty expensive when you visit this particular arena.
Take hats, for example. The average cap costs $24.29, which is exceeded only by the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls and Brooklyn Nets.
Unfortunately, this doesn't change much when discussing beverages (either beers or sodas), but the hot dogs are at least fairly priced.
Toronto fans are generally a pretty passionate bunch, but the lack of a superstar has kept them from getting too active at Raptors games. Things were different during the early 2000s when Vince Carter thrilled crowds, and then Chris Bosh kept the team competitive, but it hasn't been overly rambunctious in a while.
Maybe a full season of Rudy Gay (especially the stronger version who can actually see) will be enough to turn things around in 2013-14. At least the food choices are superb, especially as they feature some items that only exist within the walls of the Air Canada Centre.
The Air Canada Centre boasts the No. 9 biggest seating selection in the Association, but that doesn't help mask the fact that the arena itself doesn't really thrill many fans. Our panel gave the aesthetic appeal a score of 70.25, and none of the judges gave it any higher than a 77.
While there are great views from everywhere in the arena, it clearly belongs to the Toronto Maple Leafs above all else. And although the tribute to Dr. James Naismith is a nice touch, that would factor in much more heavily if half of the crowd even knew it existed.
The Raptors have been getting better after taking a nosedive following the departure of Chris Bosh, and the arrival of general manager Masai Ujiri will help out, but not for a while. This is still a lackluster roster that needs a lot of development if it hopes to remain in postseason contention.
With an all-time winning percentage of just 40.7, Toronto doesn't have a storied basketball history. Nor does it have a stellar current product.
28. Sacramento Kings
If you want to go to an NBA game in style without breaking the bank, the Sacramento Kings are a great option. With a top courtside price of $1,487.50, Sac-Town boasts the No. 7 rank in that portion of this category.
The $43.32 fans have to spend on an average ticket wasn't quite as elite, but it's still enough for the Kings to finish in the top half of the league.
Let's start out with the positive: only nine arenas in the NBA charge cheaper prices for beer. You can get a 16-ounce glass for an average of $5.60, and that makes it much easier to tolerate the lackluster environment and utter bleakness of the arena.
All of the food and beverage prices are quite competitive, but it would be nice if the merchandise was offered at more of a discount. If the team isn't going to win games, it should be easier to buy gear that supports the franchise.
Now is where it gets really grim.
The average home game filled up only 79.4 percent of the arena during the 2012-13 season, and the fans were awfully quiet even when they did show up. And this was during a campaign in which they were fighting to keep the franchise in Sac-Town.
In 2013-14, things could go one of two ways. Either fans will rejoice to see a more talented roster staying put, or they'll act like a player who just received a big payday and start to slump (in terms of their enthusiasm).
Sleep Train Arena is aptly named. There's so little excitement about it that it makes everyone just want to catch up on the "Z"s.
Only the Milwaukee Bucks' BMO Harris Bradley Center received a lower score for aesthetic appeal, and it doesn't help that the 17,317-person capacity crowd is larger than only the New Orleans Pelicans' arena. It's a brutal combination, one that caused Sleep Train Arena to check in as the caboose by a rather large margin.
The product is getting better for the Sacramento Kings, though it still can't touch the days when this franchise was located in Cincinnati.
Right now, the new management—led by Vivek Ranadive, who hopes to turn around the franchise quickly now that he's in charge—is just acquiring talent. And there is indeed talent at each and every position, even if the depth chart is filled with undetermined battles and a decisive lack of chemistry.
The product should continue to improve throughout the 2013-14 campaign, but it's still not one that will draw more than the diehards to Sleep Train Arena on a regular basis.
27. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have two major things working in their favor.
Only three teams have lower courtside seating costs (the Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks), and parking is just incredibly cheap. Coming in at $5, Cleveland is tops in the league, tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Charlotte Bobcats.
If you're going to a Cavs game, you have two options: fill up on food and drinks before you get to the arena or save your money for months. It's expensive to buy anything at Quicken Loans Arena.
The beer, for example, is so expensive that its price is topped only by the beverages served at the Staples Center or at Philadelphia 76ers games. I suppose they've gotten used to overcharging the poor patrons who have had to witness the futility in years without LeBron James.
This score should rise now that the Cavaliers boast a more competitive squad, but it's awfully telling that they struggled to fill up The Q during a down season. Last year, only 78.7 percent of the seats were filled during the average home game.
Inside the arena, the PA announcers are strong and fill the lulls with entertaining sounds and interactive activities, but the fans have a tough time getting worked up. They may be knowledgeable, but they're quiet and unenthused unless the game is particularly exciting.
The Q definitely has some positive and negative factors.
On one hand, it's a huge arena that boasts a giant capacity crowd. And while there haven't been any championships won in the building, its history makes it even better, especially with the division banners and retired jerseys hanging from the rafters.
But on the other hand, it's a bit tired. There haven't been any major renovations since it was opened in 1994, and it's a rather plain building, both when discussing the interior and the exterior. Our panel's scores for the aesthetic appeal ranged from 50 to 68.
If there's one area that Cavs fans should really be excited about, it's this one.
Everything is looking up for the product, even if the team has been in a rough patch since LeBron James left for the Miami Heat. Kyrie Irving continues to blossom into one of the league's biggest stars, and the rest of the roster is overflowing with quality players, young talent and intriguing gambles.
This is a potential playoff team, and perhaps the excitement associated with the hunt for one of the final postseason spots will be enough to get The Q filled up a little bit more often.
26. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Arena has a rather large disparity between its top prices and its lowest ones.
While you could feasibly spend over four grand to sit courtside, the average ticket price is still only $29.85, which, when combined with the parking cost ($15), makes New Orleans highly, highly competitive. Only four teams boast a lower average total.
Apparently it's sort of a trend that the middle-of-the-road teams tend to finish in the middle of the pack for discretionary spending.
They can't overcharge, or else they'll risk annoying fans who already don't have all that much motivation to attend. But they also can't give away food, beverages and merchandise because they have to make as much of a profit as possible.
Such is the case for the New Orleans Pelicans, who check in right around the middle of all relevant categories.
There's only one word to describe the environment here: "WOOOO!!"
That Ric Flair shout has been used by PA announcers to celebrate scores by the team's star player for a while now, and one can only hope that the Pelicans will continue the tradition now that they've changed the team name. But unfortunately, that's one of the few positives.
Well, that and the franchise's acumen with social media. Fans tend to be quite passionate on all the popular networks—perhaps more so than they are in the arena—and that only increases the experience in today's information age.
The New Orleans Arena is just not very impressive.
While the outside looks solid when facing the entrance, the rest of the building seems likes a hexagonal box, and the interior won't blow anyone away. Our panel gave the arena a score of 57.75, which left it ranked at No. 27.
The age of the building works in its advantage, but the fact that it boasts the smallest capacity crowd of any arena depresses the ranking in this section rather significantly.
The historical appeal of this franchise is virtually nonexistent. With a sub-.500 winning percentage throughout franchise history, 18 All-Star appearances and one Hall of Famer (Robert Parish out of his prime), there just isn't much to write home about.
But this team is getting more competitive.
The offseason acquisitions of Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday, plus the expected improvement and excitement provided by Anthony Davis, will assure fans of that.
25. Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards feature parking that's almost as expensive as the average ticket. Seriously.
Parking is usually right around $20, and the average ticket costs just $32.24. So while the prices to get into the stadium are encouraging to fans of this up-and-coming Eastern Conference squad, it's almost necessary to find alternate means of transportation if you want to attend a game.
It's almost as though the Wizards want their fans to consume alcohol (well, the 21-and-older portion of the crowd, of course).
The average beer price is $5.33 for 16 ounces, but a 16-ounce soda checks in at $5. Hmm.
Add in an average hat price and expensive hot dogs, and you can see exactly why the Wizards are right in the middle of the pack for discretionary spending. It's almost as though different parts of the organization are worried about prices for different items and can't decide if food and beverages should be universally cheap or expensive.
There's a lot to do in the nation's capital, but that still doesn't excuse an average home attendance figure of just 80.6 percent. Especially when there's an exciting talent like John Wall and a top-tier rookie like Bradley Beal (last year).
On top of that, while the food is reportedly delicious, the fans aren't particularly loud and enthusiastic. Nothing that the crowd does differentiates it from other NBA fanbases, and it's hard to find much excitement given the putridity of this team over the last few years.
An infusion of hope is drastically needed here.
It's about time for the Verizon Center to get a facelift.
The building itself isn't visually stunning, and it's been quite a while since there's been a major renovation. In fact, there hasn't been one since it was first opened in 1997, and only seven arenas have gone longer without any work.
A lack of improvement, a stadium that isn't very good-looking and a lack of positive history in the arena do not make for a very good combination.
If you think back to the Washington Bullet days, this franchise has a lot of upper-tier history. Unfortunately, the average fan doesn't tend to do so, and instead focuses on the mediocre squad he or she currently gets to watch.
Wall, Beal and Otto Porter offer plenty of hope for the future, but let's not sugarcoat this too much. The Wizards are still an up-and-coming team trying to make the playoffs by earning one of the final seeds in the weaker Eastern Conference.
There's still no guarantee of quality basketball each and every night.
24. Boston Celtics
It doesn't cost too much to move down in the TD Garden's seating arrangement, but the Boston Celtics still charge a lot just to attend a game in general.
Not only is the $34 parking the second-most expensive in the NBA, but the $72.96 average tickets are ridiculously expensive. Only the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers "beat" the latter number.
Much to the surprise of just about no one, Boston is an expensive place.
The Celtics sell the seventh-most expensive beers in the NBA, and everything else follows suit. The hot dogs come in at an average of $4.75, and the soda prices are similarly pricy. But hey, at least the hats check in at only $18 on average, which is one of the best deals out there.
If you go to a C's game, it helps to know your basketball. Boston fans are both enthusiastic and knowledgeable, although they haven't been quite as passionate lately. Perhaps it's a hangover from the title-winning team.
The TD Garden still fills up each night (100 percent attendance on average last year), but it's not like the Larry Bird era when the roof needed repairs for sound damage just about every game. Add in some low-quality food that taints the experience, and you can see why Boston doesn't check in as a top-10 environment anymore.
Boston residents know this, but the TD Garden is not the same building as the old Boston Garden. It's still known as such, but the arena that currently stands opened in 1995, so it doesn't have the same historical appeal that some basketball fans might expect.
In fact, the C's have won only one championship while calling this particular arena home.
Still, the novelty of the parquet floors is just stellar. It's a major part of the reason that the aesthetic appeal of The Garden was rated at 84.75. Now if only it seated a few more fans...
While the historical appeal of this franchise is just through the roof (matched only by the Los Angeles Lakers), the current product isn't going to coerce to many fans into attending home games.
Rajon Rondo—when he returns from his torn ACL—is the lone star, and Jeff Green is the No. 2 option. That's not appealing enough for a fanbase that expects so much, and Boston's roster will have to exceed expectations rather dramatically in order to boost the rank in this category.
At least Brad Stevens is going to be the coach of the future, and a darn good one at that.
23. Phoenix Suns
It's surprisingly expensive to go to a Phoenix Suns game.
Would you have guessed that one of the bottom-feeders in the league would be charging an average of $57.28 for admission? I certainly wouldn't have, even though the US Airways Center is a pretty sweet venue.
The luxury type of attendance isn't too pricy, but the same can't be said about the average cost.
The Suns have to find a way to lure in fans, and the cheap prices once you get inside the arena seem to do the trick.
Whether you're spending $9 on a 24-ounce beer, a measly $3 on a quality hot dog or $23 on a hat, you can find good products without emptying the contents of your wallet. And, obviously, that's never a bad thing.
Maybe Suns fans are too distracted by the ability to buy food and beverages without spending too much. Attendance isn't typically too poor, and the atmosphere is always strong, but the fans just don't get into the games.
Quite frankly, it takes a big dunk or similar level of highlight to get anything more than a ripple from the crowd. At times, it seems as though the proceedings are distracting those in attendance from their side conversations.
I suppose that's what happens when you've been a downtrodden franchise for quite some time.
If the US Airways Center were bigger—the 18,422 maximum capacity ranks 22nd in the league—or had hosted more championships, it would be in the competition for the No. 1 spot in this category.
Phoenix's home is old enough to have historical appeal, has recent renovations that give it a fresh feel and looks stunning. The open-faced glass facade is beautiful, and the aesthetic appeal doesn't stop there. Our panel of judges gave the arena scores that ranged from 82 to 94, and it trailed only the Barclays Center in my personal rankings.
And from a positive to a negative we go.
Let's just put it this way: The Suns are going to be much more competitive in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes than for a shot at one of the Western Conference's postseason spots. There's limited young talent to get excited about, and the established players aren't nearly good enough to carry this squad to a winning record.
22. Charlotte Bobcats
As you might expect for the team that's been as bad as any other over the last few years, tickets are dirt cheap.
With an average ticket price of $29.27 and parking at only $5, no team boasts a lower average cost of attendance. However, it's quite pricy to go to a Charlotte Bobcats game in style, and that depresses the ranking in the category down to No. 4.
The average Charlotte hat sells for $15.99, which means that only the Miami Heat (surprise!) and Memphis Grizzlies beat them in that particular category. The Bobcats also have very competitive hot dog prices, but the beverages move them down in the rankings by a smidgen.
Beer in particular is a little overpriced, checking in at the bottom half of the league there, although you'd think that alcoholic beverages might be a bit discounted to distract fans from the on-court product they've been watching over the last few years.
Somewhat shockingly, the Bobcats actually came in at No. 4 in the social media equity rankings. Only the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics get more out of their fans on Facebook, Twitter and the other various sites used.
But that's about where the positive ends.
As you might expect, Charlotte struggles to maintain strong home attendance, relying on the prowess of visiting teams rather than its own roster. And that's not particularly conducive to having a raucous environment.
Time Warner Cable Arena is one of the newest arenas in the NBA, so while it doesn't have much history working in its advantage, it's still fresh. Only the Amway Center and Barclays Center were built after the Bobcats' home opened its doors in 2005.
It's a medium-sized arena, but that's not what pushes down the ranking. That would be the lack of creativity, as there just isn't too much going on.
The scoreboard is a high-quality one and the floor pattern is visually pleasing, but the overall aesthetic appeal just isn't there. Our panel rated Time Warner Cable Arena at just 61, putting it just one spot outside the bottom five in our rankings.
This shouldn't be even the least bit surprising.
While the Bobcats have a stronger team than some of the other bottom-feeders going into the 2013-14 campaign, there's absolutely no history to speak of. Charlotte boasts a single playoff appearance and only one All-Star (Gerald Wallace in 2009-10) in its short time as part of the NBA.
That's just not going to help draw fans to the stadium, and it won't change until the Bobcats are decisively better than average.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves
Whether you want to go to a Minnesota Timberwolves game in style or cheaply, you can do so without emptying your wallet.
Only six teams ranked in the top 10 of both categories that went into the overall affordability score, and the Timberwolves were definitely one of them, coming in at No. 6 for the average experience and No. 9 for the luxury experience.
Don't go to the Target Center and expect to leave with a full stomach. Or much merchandise, for that matter.
Not only are hats ridiculously expensive ($23.99 on average), but hot dogs are $5.50, sodas are $4.33 for 16 ounces and 16-ounce beers check in at an insane $9.33. Most teams at least give their fans a break in one of the four areas we looked at, but not the 'Wolves.
That's why they finish dead last in discretionary spending.
How you feel about the Target Center's environment really depends on your thoughts about the howling of wolves. You may get annoyed pretty quickly if you can't stand tacky sounds like that.
And while Minnesota uses social media pretty effectively, there still isn't much positive here. The fans don't show up in bunches except for when the big-name teams are in town, and the food is lackluster at best.
Having both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love healthy at the same time should get fans back into the swing of things, but they've been struggling ever since Kevin Garnett left.
There's a lot to like about the Target Center.
It's an older building that has been renovated pretty recently (2004), it boasts a sizable capacity crowd and it looks okay. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a great-looking building (personal rating of 65, which was a bit lower than the rest of our panel), but others are far worse.
The huge Jumbotron is a great feature, and it helps ensure that all fans can see the action quite clearly. That, more so than any aesthetic part of the arena, its the best part.
Can Minnesota escape the injury imp for just one season? Chase Budinger says no, but the rest of the roster hopes that it can stay healthy after it was virtually decimated in 2012-13.
If the 'Wolves can remain on the court, they figure to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot in the Western Conference throughout the 2013-14 campaign. With Love, Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and all the other pieces in place, they certainly have the talent to do so.
Minnesota's status as a relatively young franchise does come back to bite it here, but things are looking up in this category.
20. Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets are in the middle of the pack for both the average and luxury breakdowns, so it's only fitting that they claim a middle-of-the-pack ranking for overall affordability.
With an average ticket price of $45.65 and $15 parking, the average cost of attendance ranks 16th, and the luxury experience is slightly more competitive with the rest of the Association's franchises.
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and apparently that applies to the prices you can find in the Toyota Center.
Although sodas can be had for surprisingly little cost, the same isn't true for beer and hot dogs. In fact, the average dog costs $6, which leaves Houston tied with the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers for the most expensive one in the NBA.
But hey, at least you can fill up on those carbonated beverages without breaking the bank. You can get 32 ounces for just about the same price as a dog if you know where to look.
While the food is expensive, it's reportedly pretty delicious. There are plenty of traditional options, but the Toyota Center also boasts plenty of Texas-themed items. You'll find all sorts of Tex-Mex and barbecue if you wander around the corridors.
As for the fans, though, they're rather easily overshadowed by the infamous Red Rowdies. The inhabitants of Section 114 are quite passionate, to the point that they sometimes make the rest of the arena look quiet by comparison.
There just isn't much to write home about here.
The Toyota Center isn't old enough to have hosted the Hakeem Olajuwon-led teams of the '90s, and it looks fairly nondescript. In addition to being small—the capacity crowd of 18,023 is the 27th-biggest in the Association—there isn't much aesthetic appeal outside the giant scoreboard in the middle.
The arena's exterior is particularly plain, and you might confuse it for a giant Toyota dealership without any cars out front if you aren't paying close enough attention.
Now here's where things get exciting.
The rest of the fan experience might not be exciting in Houston, but at least the team is. Dwight Howard and James Harden are the latest superstars for a franchise that has always seemed to boast at least one elite player, and the rest of the roster isn't too shabby.
A playoff spot is all but guaranteed, and it doesn't hurt that the up-tempo style of play is very appealing.
19. Philadelphia 76ers
If you want to sit courtside, make a trip out to Philadelphia.
No team boasts a lower courtside price against the Miami Heat than the Sixers, who check in at a top price of $1,119.50. Unfortunately, their No. 1 finish in the luxury portion is mitigated by the $39.25 average tickets and $12 parking, which gives them the No. 9 spot for average cost of attendance. And since that's weighted more heavily...
The City of Brotherly Love knows that her residents tend to get a bit rowdy without the aid of alcohol, and the prices are adjusted accordingly.
All aspects of discretionary spending are reasonable—bordering on elite, in fact—until we get to beer. On average, it costs $10.33 for 16 ounces, making this one of the most expensive places in the basketball portion of the country to enjoy an adult beverage.
Although the Philadelphia Eagles are generally the bigger priority, Philadelphia 76ers fans are notorious for their passion. They support their team with undying love and affection...until things start going poorly.
Then the boo birds are out in full force. At least among the fans who actually show up.
That's the biggest negative here, as the lackluster product on the court has prevented too many fans from actually attending games. 82.2 percent attendance just isn't going to cut it.
The Wells Fargo Center is a classic arena, even if it's only been around since 1996.
It holds one of the biggest capacity crowds (on the rare occasion that it can fill up anymore), and the interior is nearly perfect. The red-white-and-blue color scheme is both classy and visually appealing, and the geometric nature of everything gets to just about everyone.
Even though the arena is humongous, it still feels pretty small. Noise carries well, and even the fans in the nosebleeds feel involved in the action.
The only bad thing about the Wells Fargo Center is the team that plays there. It's the only arena in the NBA that hosts a D-League team.
The 76ers are going to struggle mightily throughout the season, and their only saving grace is the historical appeal of this team. It's nice to be reminded of Julius Erving, Charles Barkley and all the other great players that have lined up for the Sixers, even if it's the homages in the arena doing the reminding, not the players on the court.
18. Los Angeles Lakers
The word "cheap" just doesn't exist for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Not only is the $100.25 average ticket one of only two to hit three figures, but the luxury cost of attendance isn't much better. At the time that data was collected, the highest competitively priced courtside seat for a home game against the Miami Heat was...wait for it...$12,101.40.
Believe it or not, there were actually two franchises that laid claim to more expensive seats.
If the Los Angeles Lakers are lower than you expected, discretionary spending is a primary reason.
It's just expensive to do anything in the Staples Center. L.A. understands that it has a rather wealthy fanbase, and it charges accordingly. For everything.
The average 16-ounce beer is $12, for example. Hot dogs, on average, cost just a quarter shy of $6.
If you want to attend a Lakers game, you better save some money to buy anything within the confines of the arena.
The atmosphere at Lakers games is pretty much untouchable.
Whether you're interested in celebrity sightings or finding passionate fans who will support their team each and every game, you're in luck. And the Staples Center is always full. Even during the unfortunate 2012-13 campaign, home games filled up 99.7 percent of the arena.
Add in a fanbase that gets more involved with social media than any other, and you have a recipe for the No. 1 team in this category.
The Staples Center is one of the most well-known basketball arenas in the world, and for good reason.
It's a great-looking building—our panel gave it an 83.25 for aesthetic appeal—with a sizable capacity crowd, and it's just filled with history. The Lakers have won five championships while calling the Staples Center home, and no other arena in the NBA can match that.
In fact, no other building has even hit four.
The 2013-14 Lakers product isn't going to be very good. Even though Kobe Bryant is on the roster, the fact that he's rehabbing that ruptured Achilles and the team's lackluster supporting cast don't seem to point toward a playoff-bound season.
It's the history of the team that saves this category.
The Lakers are only touched by the Boston Celtics in terms of historical appeal, and Lakers Nation won't forget that.
17. Dallas Mavericks
Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the prices for attending a Dallas Mavericks contest.
Between the $20 parking—one of only six franchises that make you fork over at least an Andrew Jackson—and the $51.80 average ticket, this just isn't a competitively priced team. It would be different if the Mavericks were still as good as they were in 2011, of course.
I grew up going to the occasional Dallas game, and one of my favorite parts was my ability to use my allowance and treat myself to reasonably priced items. I might not have been able to enjoy the beer ($5.33 for 16 ounces, on average), but I may have filled up on sodas a couple times.
"Reasonable" is the best word to use here. Across the board, items—both merchandise and things you consume—are fairly priced, even if they don't stand out in any one area.
Dallas fans flock to the American Airlines Center in droves, but they aren't overly loud when they're in the building. It would be nice to see just a bit more enthusiasm on a nightly basis, even if the stadium really couldn't get any more full.
In the past, Dallas fans have notoriously been some of the loudest in the league, but that enthusiasm has dwindled since the post-title honeymoon ran its course.
During the 2012-13 campaign, the arena was always sold out. In fact, the average home game drew 104.4 percent of the capacity crowd, which left the Mavs trailing only the Chicago Bulls.
To find flaws with the American Airlines Center, you really have to dig deep. There are areas that don't stand out (the historical appeal and the size, above all else), but those aren't "flaws" in the true sense of the word.
Plus, it's a rather handsome building.
Our panel has the arena ranked No. 8 in terms of aesthetic appeal with an average score of 81.25. The Hangar's signature exterior arches leave no doubt you're in for a treat as soon as you first catch a glimpse of the building.
With 18 playoff appearances and one championship in 34 seasons, the Mavericks don't have enough historical appeal to boost up their score in this category. In fact, there have only been 27 All-Star appearances since the franchise was founded, and only 14 of them come from players not named Dirk Nowitzki or Steve Nash.
The current product isn't particularly appealing either.
Dirk is still there, and he'll always draw crowds, but the supporting cast is going to make it quite difficult for him to carry Dallas back into the playoffs.
16. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies just narrowly edged out the Atlanta Hawks as the most affordable experience that the NBA has to offer. And here's why:
|Team||Average Ticket Price||Top Courtside Price||Parking|
It's close, but that difference in the average ticket price gives the Grizz a narrow margin of victory in the category.
Just as is the case with most aspects of this fan experience, the discretionary spending is right about the middle of the pack.
If you're looking for something to buy without completely emptying your wallets, go to the merchandise stores. You can get a hat for right around $15, and that's a cheaper average than any other team in the NBA.
But if you're looking to drink or eat, then you're going to end up spending a little more. At least Memphis barbecue is delicious.
Unless the Grizz are squaring off with a rival team, there just isn't much intensity. Fans show up, but that's about all they do on a typical night.
The mood isn't generally that festive, and it's quite clear that Memphis is still struggling to fully adopt this team before the playoffs roll around. Other local teams just matter more, and that's brutally obvious throughout the season.
Plus—and this comes as quite a surprise—the food doesn't get good reviews. It's plain and doesn't offer much variety.
The coolest thing about the FedExForum is how it's spelled. Seriously.
In terms of aesthetic appeal, it doesn't stand out, receiving a score of 79.25 from our judges. That's not too shabby, but it also doesn't help make up for the age of the arena, the lack of renovations, the dearth of quality history in the building and the small seating capacity.
The music themes are a nice touch while wandering around, and that's about it.
Memphis isn't helped out by the lack of franchise history (even when including the Vancouver portion). It's completely reliant on the current product, which—fortunately—is a good one.
The Grizz were quite competitive throughout the 2012-13 season, and not much is going to change in 2013-14. They return all crucial pieces, including Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
Now they just have to hope that a go-to scorer can emerge for those crunch-time situations.
15. New York Knicks
Cheap New York Knicks tickets?
Try spending a league-high $123.22 on an average-priced ticket. How about dropping $30 on parking? What about buying a courtside seat against the Miami Heat for $14,238.70?
Start saving your money if you want to go to Madison Square Garden.
Believe it or not, the Knicks are saved by the prices of their sodas.
Hats (and merchandise in general) are expensive. So, too, are beers, checking in at an average of $9 for a 16-ounce glass of your favorite adult beverage. But sodas are only $3.60 for 16 ounces.
Given the expensive nature of New York City, this is actually a favorable finish in the category for the Knicks.
There are only two things really keeping New York from earning an even better score here.
First, fans are surprisingly out of touch with social media. They finished No. 27 in social media equity, and that seems to tie directly into the second point, which is that some fans attend games just to attend games.
Going to a contest at Madison Square Garden is almost a status symbol to a select group, and that's a large enough portion of those in attendance that it diminishes the possibility for a truly raucous environment.
There's a reason that Madison Square Garden is considered the mecca of basketball.
It's not a huge arena, but it's filled with history and kept up to date. MSG is 45 years old now, but it was also renovated in 2013, so it maintains the best of both worlds and ensures that there's quite a bit of history living inside the building.
Additionally, it's just beautiful.
Our panel's scores ranged from 89 to 95, and the average of 93 left it trailing only the Barclays Center in terms of aesthetic appeal.
The Knicks have a storied history, boasting 91 All-Star selections and 17 Hall of Famers. The all-time winning percentage of 50 percent isn't too impressive, though, as there have been multiple periods where the team was downtrodden for a lengthy period.
As for the current version, it's one of the fringe contenders in the Eastern Conference. A lot has to go right for New York to win a title (I'm talking a lot more than would have to go right for most contenders), but Carmelo Anthony is one hell of a player to build around.
14. Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz games aren't particularly expensive, but it's hard to call them cheap, either.
The average contest costs $43.50 to attend, and the parking and luxury costs are right in the middle of the pack, as well. Just like this overall experience.
Don't expect to break the bank once you've gained entry to a Utah game.
Merchandise is cheap, and so are the typical food and beverages. An average hot dog costs only $3.50, which is about as reasonable as it gets while attending a professional sporting event.
A 16-ounce beer costs $6 on average, but finding one is more of a challenge than normal. You have to purchase those types of beverages from specialized kiosks, so their presence isn't as ubiquitous as you might find elsewhere.
Not only are Jazz games great for Utah fans to attend, but they're also one of the best places for fans of the opposing team to visit. Even though Jazz supporters are passionate, they're still almost universally respectful of those who choose to cheer for other teams.
A little bit more attendance would be nice—although it's understandable since the team hasn't been very good lately—but that's really the only complaint here.
Not even the new scoreboard saves EnergySolutions Arena from a poor score.
It's a big and loud stadium, but it just doesn't look very good. The exterior is incredibly plain, reminding me of a giant striped shoebox more than a basketball arena, and the interior isn't all that much better.
In fact, the highest score it received from our panel for aesthetic appeal was a 76, and that was a clear outlier. The average score of 55.75 left it ahead of only Sleep Train Arena and the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
Utah Jazz history is intertwined with its star players, primarily Karl Malone and John Stockton, but the current product isn't at a high level yet. It could be once some of the young players break out, but it's tough to get excited to go see the current roster.
I have the Jazz projected to win 30 games, and they check in at 23 wins for B/R's Dan Favale and 32 for ESPN's panel. That's just not going to get the job done in this category, as winning is the ultimate goal for a team when you go to watch them.
13. Los Angeles Clippers
Just look at how massive a difference there is between the affordability of a Los Angeles Clippers game and a Los Angeles Lakers contest:
|Team||Average Ticket Cost||Top Courtside Cost||Parking|
|Los Angeles Clippers||$63.10||$11,288.50||$15|
|Los Angeles Lakers||$100.25||$12,101.40||$15|
And despite that large discrepancy, the Clippers still fall in at No. 26. Just shows you how big a difference there is between teams when we get near the top of the rankings.
Remember how the Los Angeles Lakers finished at No. 28 in this category?
The only difference is the prices charged by the beer vendors, as our average price drops from $12 per 16 ounces to $10.
The Los Angeles Clippers had no problem filling out the Staples Center, and they were quite passionate once they entered the building. Perhaps they're just excited to cheer about a team that's actually competitive after so many years of utter futility.
On average, home games resulted in a crowd that filled up 100.9 percent of the arena. You know you're in good shape when three digits just aren't enough.
Now if only the fans could get more in touch with social media. They finished No. 30 in social media equity, which is rather surprising since the Lakers' market checked in at No. 1.
The Staples Center finished at No. 3 when the Lakers were using it, so what caused the decline? Well, there are a couple factors.
There's far less historical appeal, as the Clippers have never won a title, much less earned one within the friendly confines of this arena. Additionally, there aren't as many banners hanging in the rafters in support of this team.
On top of that, the setup just isn't quite as visually appealing. LAC's version of the Staples Center received an average aesthetic appeal of 77.75, while the LAL version checked in at 83.25.
There isn't much history to speak of for this franchise—21 All-Star selections over 44 seasons and a historic winning percentage of only 37.5 percent—but the current product is one of the best out there. If the Clippers aren't the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, they won't be far back of the eventual winner.
12. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic's courtside-seat prices prevent them from moving up into the top 10 of both the luxury and the average categories, but they finish eighth in the more important one.
With an average ticket price of $41.18 and parking that costs just about $10, Orlando lets you attend games for less than half of what it take to get into an average seat at Madison Square Garden.
It's a major reason that a team in the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes is able to make a push for a top-10 spot in the overall rankings.
It's not expensive if you want to have a good time at the Amway Center.
Take beers, for example. The average 16-ounce brew costs only $5.25, which is one of the best prices in the entire Association. In fact, only four teams throughout the league have better numbers in that aspect of the rankings.
Considering what they've had to work with lately, the Magic faithful are a pretty impressive bunch. They aren't overly loud, but they still show up and cheer on their team while remaining faithful to the franchise, even when the losses are piling up.
What really helps out the score here is that the food draws rave reviews. As StadiumJourney.com's Jim Folsom writes, there's something for everyone:
Forget about it. Seriously? If you cannot find something to eat in this place, you just are not easy to please. You want Mexican? They have that. You want pizza? Papa John's has their own stand. You want Bar-B-Q? Got it. You want the standard ball park cuisine? They have that too. And this is on the second concourse level where all of us working class people sit.
Apparently I think the Amway Center is a better looking building than most people do. Our panel gave the aesthetic appeal an average score of 76.25, and I had the highest number at 82.
The blue theme of the interior just does it for me, and the exterior is fantastic. It's hard not to get excited about the geometry of the building and the glass-faced entrance.
While the stadium could stand to seat more people, it's a new building, hence the (in my opinion) stunning nature.
The Magic are the ultimate team to go see if you don't care about the product. It's pretty incredible that these bottom-feeders are able to sniff the top 10 without boasting a team that will be even remotely competitive.
Orlando has some upside thanks to Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, but it's going to take a while before the Magic can actually contend for a playoff spot.
11. Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets don't give their fans much of a discount. They don't need to, as the Pepsi Center is always rocking and giving the team an undeniable home-court advantage (*cough* altitude *cough*).
With an average ticket price of $54.23, the cost of attendance can sometimes be a deterrent for younger fans, even when the on-court product is an entertaining one.
Denver has emerged as one of the true beer capitals of the United States (seriously, the number of breweries and microbreweries in and around the Mile High City is just ridiculous), so it's only fitting that the Pepsi Center has some of the best prices possible.
The average 16-ounce brewski is...wait for it...just $4.17. Only the Nuggets and Detroit Pistons come in under $5.
While sodas and hot dogs are expensive by comparison, that's just too good a deal for Denver to finish outside the top 10 in discretionary spending.
There's a reason that the Denver Nuggets managed to go 38-3 at home during the 2012-13 season. I'm just not entirely sure what it is since the home attendance checked in at only 93 percent.
It's not like the Pepsi Center was always rocking when the Nuggets were in town, as the Denver Broncos are clearly the No. 1 attraction in this city.
Our panel generally decided that the Pepsi Center looked good but not great. Scores ranged from 70 to 79, averaging out at 73.5 to finish 17th among all NBA arenas.
And it's pretty middle-of-the-pack across the board, hence the No. 15 finish in this category. The Pepsi Center holds a medium-sized crowd and is 14 years old, without much history for its rafters to shout about.
In their 47 seasons of existence, the Nuggets have never won a title. They've made the playoffs 33 times with a historical winning percentage just over .500, but their records are littered with postseason failures.
Is this year's squad going to be different?
Minus Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos and George Karl, the Nuggets are fighting an uphill battle, but there's still enough talent to be both entertaining and good. Expect another low-level playoff seed and a first-round exit.
10. Brooklyn Nets
I have to admit, I was shocked the Brooklyn Nets didn't charge even more for tickets. Wouldn't you think a team in New York City would be charging something very close to triple digits, even if it didn't quite make it to $100?
Well, the Nets' average ticket costs "only" $55.89. Yay for pleasant surprises?
You can't expect to find cheap food and drinks in one of the New York City boroughs.
And, in case you hadn't figured it out already, you should do your shopping for merchandise before getting to the Barclays Center. The average hat costs a mind-boggling $30, which just blows away every other team.
To put that in perspective, the San Antonio Spurs have the second-most expensive headwear at $25 apiece.
The food is good. The atmosphere is excellent. The fans are rowdy and passionate.
However, there aren't always a lot of them. That's the only thing holding Brooklyn back from finishing at the very top of this category. Well, that and the relatively minor fact that the social media equity score isn't too promising.
During the 2012-13 season, even though it was the debut of the team in Brooklyn, the Nets drew only 94.9 percent of the capacity crowd during the average home game.
No stadium is more aesthetically appealing. Other than the extreme darkness in some areas of the stadium, it's perfect. The exterior is unique and ultra-cool, and the interior looks sleek, as well.
That's why the Barclays Center received an average rating of 95 here and was the top-rated stadium on all but one of the surveys. But there are still two problems.
First, the arena is so new that it has zero history. Built in 2012, it's the newest of the NBA arenas, and that's both a positive and a negative for this category.
Secondly, only Sleep Train Arena and New Orleans Arena hold fewer fans.
The Brooklyn Nets are going to be a fun team to watch in 2013-14.
They boast one of the top starting fives in all of basketball: Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. Any of the aforementioned players could emerge as an All-Star during the coming season, and the intrigue doesn't end there.
Is this team too old? Is there enough depth? Can Jason Kidd handle being a head coach right away?
The Nets will be fun to follow throughout their second season in Brooklyn.
9. Portland Trail Blazers
If you want to sit front and center at the Rose Garden Moda Center (man, it's going to be hard to break that habit), you don't have to break the bank to do so. $1,317 might seem like a lot of money, but it's really not when you're paying to sit courtside and see the Miami Heat play.
In fact, only four teams have better luxury scores than the Portland Trail Blazers. Now if only they could lower that average price and get even more financially competitive.
This was pretty surprising to me, but the Portland Trail Blazers like charging a lot once fans are in attendance.
Across the board, everything is pricy. Whether we're looking at merchandise, hot dogs, beer or sodas, you aren't going to catch a break. Nothing is prohibitively expensive, but everything is pretty darn close.
Just make sure you aren't hungry before you show up.
Portland fans are just fantastic.
They show up more than you'd expect for a non-playoff team, and they're universally loud regardless of the situation. The arena is built to be loud, and the fans just don't disappoint. Around the league, they've developed a passionate reputation, and it's for good reason.
Holding Rip City back from a top environment spot is the lack of elite social media equity and the disappointing fact that the expensive food just isn't very tasty. The local breweries provide fantastic beer, but you're out of luck if you want quality food without breaking the bank.
It's going to be weird referring to this beautiful building as the Moda Center after it was universally known as the Rose Garden since it was opened in October of 1995. Portland doesn't like it, and there's a solid chance that the official name just never catches on.
Even the mayor is puzzled by the change.
The name might be weird, but there's no denying the Moda Center is a charming arena. Personally, I rated the aesthetic appeal at 83, but the panel gave it an average score of 77. The quirky roof and sleek interior both help its cause.
There's reason for excitement in Rip City, but a playoff spot isn't exactly guaranteed in the tough Western Conference.
Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are both potential All-Stars, and Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are both solid contributors who can get fans excited. But without a truly elite team and limited upper-tier history to boast about, it's hard for Portland to work into the top half here.
8. Chicago Bulls
Due to their incredible history and current status as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls can afford to charge their fans an arm and leg before they gain admission to the United Center.
And that's exactly what they do.
Thanks to the $20 parking and an average ticket cost of $71.90, the Bulls check in with the No. 26 average cost of attendance. Not even discounted courtside seats can push them to a more respectable rank in this category.
The United Center continues to be expensive once you gain entry.
Not only do the Bulls have some of the priciest merchandise in the NBA, but the food and beverages follow suit.
If you decide to attend a Bulls game, I sure hope that you aren't a big fan of chugging soda, or else you're going to leave the contest broke. The average 16-ounce soda checks in at $4.20.
No team's fanbase shows up with greater frequency. During the 2012-13 season, the Bulls filled up 104.6 percent of the seats at an average home game, and that gives them the No. 1 spot in that portion of the rankings. In fact, Chicago is one of only four franchises to top 100 percent.
This will likely change once Derrick Rose is back at an MVP level, but basketball has been part of the experience and not the experience for fans in recent years. They're passionate, but they're also distracted by the events going on in the arena and the occasionally corny PA announcers.
There's just too much going on at times, and that's the biggest reason that Chicago doesn't perform even better in this section.
If you're looking for a masterclass in how to make sure that your building is fresh and has historical significance, look no further than the United Center. With 19 years of history, the building has hosted three championship-winning teams, but it also received a major renovation in 2010, so it has a new feel.
Also working in its favor is the 20,917-person capacity crowd. Only The Palace of Auburn Hills boasts a larger number. So, why isn't the United Center rated better?
It just doesn't look very good. Neither the interior nor the exterior differentiate it from other NBA arenas, and the aesthetic appeal was rated at just 67.25 by our panel of judges.
The allure of the Chicago Bulls' product goes beyond the fact that you can't help but remember Michael Jordan as soon as you walk into the United Center. There's more to it than the presence and return of Derrick Rose.
This is just a rock-solid team ready to compete for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They're part of the elite tier, one comprised of the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and maybe the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, if you're feeling generous.
In terms of both history and current product, the Bulls score nicely.
7. Detroit Pistons
I'll go ahead and spoil a few things for you:
The Detroit Pistons have an awful environment with a mediocre product and arena. To rank this close to the top, they simply have to boast highly competitive prices, and that's what they do.
With the second-cheapest courtside seats and a $40.10 average ticket (plus $10 parking), the Pistons just don't make it all that expensive to come cheer on the team.
I might consider living at The Palace of Auburn Hills if I called Detroit home.
As any of my friends could tell you, I'm kind of addicted to sodas, so the fact that you can get 16 ounces of soft drink for an average price of $2.80 is a huge plus. No arena outside of San Antonio boasts a better price, and this is true for more than just soda.
Only the Denver Nuggets have better beer prices. Only four teams sell hats for less. No franchise can beat the $3 tag on an average hot dog, although the Phoenix Suns can match it.
Across the board, the Pistons just dominate this category. The gap between them and the No. 2 finisher was almost as large as the separation between No. 2 and No. 10.
From first to worst we go.
The Detroit crowd has suffered along with this team. Ever since the title-winning squads broke up, the Pistons have struggled to stay relevant, and there's been virtually no attendance. Given the huge nature of this stadium, it's especially apparent that it's filled with empty seats.
During the 2012-13 season, only 67 percent of the arena was filled up for the average home game, a mark worse than any other squad's. Until the fans care again, it's just not looking good.
The Palace is one of the oldest and most historic arenas still in action. Erected in 1988, it's the same age as Sleep Train Arena and the BMO Harris Bradley Center, but the Pistons have actually been successful in it.
In fact, only Madison Square Garden and Oracle Arena are older.
Additionally, it hosts a larger crowd than any other arena, filling up with 22,076 fans on the rare occasions that it does sell out. Those are the positives.
On the flip side, The Palace isn't aesthetically pleasing. Our panel's scores ranged from 67 to 72, and it checks in at No. 21 in the category. Without any renovations to give it a newer feel, that's not going to change.
No one is quite sure to make of the latest version of this historically successful franchise.
It'll be close, but floor spacing and chemistry will be major concerns throughout the 2013-14 season. At the very least, this is a more appealing product than anything we've seen lately in the Motor City.
6. Atlanta Hawks
The Memphis Grizzlies ranked No. 3 for average cost of attendance and No. 6 for the luxury costs. Well, the Atlanta Hawks come in at No. 4 and No. 3, respectively.
Only the heavy weighing of the average cost keeps the Hawks from finishing first in this category, but a second-place ranking is by no means shabby. Things like that $34.75 average ticket price keep the Hawks quite competitive in the overall fan experience rankings.
The best word to use with the Hawks is reasonable.
Sodas are remarkably cheap (average of $2.86 for 16 ounces), beers are only $7 for the same size, hot dogs check in a quarter under $5 and all merchandise is pretty solid, as well, in terms of price.
You'll see this trend continuing throughout the rankings. Atlanta doesn't dominate in any of the following categories, but it's generally in the middle of the pack.
While the food is great and easy to access, that's one of the few positives for the Hawks.
There's a positive feel in the arena, but the fans are notoriously bad. Only 80 percent of the arena gets filled for the average home game, and it's not at all uncommon to hear louder cheers for the visiting team. The number of MVP chants for non-Atlanta players is striking.
Atlanta is a football city, and that's clear when you go to Philips Arena.
Philips Arena is a little old and tired, and it doesn't have much history to boast about. There are no championships in recent times for the Hawks, so no surprises there.
Additionally, there's only a small capacity crowd of 18,238. That's the 23rd-biggest in the NBA, and it seems even smaller because the Hawks struggle to draw large crowds.
But the saving grace for Atlanta is that it's still an appealing building. From the columns outside the front entrance that spell "Atlanta" to the visually stunning corridors, everything looks good. Our panel gave Philips Arena an aesthetic appeal score of 81, making it one of the top 10 in that category.
The Hawks are going to be solid once more. Not anything more than solid, but solid nonetheless.
Josh Smith is gone, but replacing him with Paul Millsap ensures that there isn't much of a drop-off. Adding more depth and a talented rookie like Dennis Schroeder only helps make this a playoff team once more.
Atlanta is the top non-elite team in the Eastern Conference, doomed to making the playoffs before bowing out in the first round. Again. But at least that makes for a lot of entertaining regular-season games.
5. Indiana Pacers
Perhaps it's because it's so tough to get fans into the arena during the regular season, but the Indiana Pacers charge only $31.62 for the average ticket. The only team with lower prices is the Memphis Grizzlies.
It can get expensive to sit right next to the action, but the cheap average prices and $8 parking ensure that the Pacers start off with an elite finish in the affordability category.
As you would expect from a blue-collar city like Indiana, beer is easy to find in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
You can get your average 16-ounce brew for only $6, which is a remarkably competitive price in an NBA arena. Only 10 stadiums go lower than that, and the quality of the product is pretty solid. All the other prices I looked at are similarly competitive, but nothing truly stands out.
Until the postseason rolls around, Pacers fans show up in embarrassing quantities.
In 2012-13, Indiana was one of the premier teams in the Eastern Conference. And yet, the fans still decided to stay home with surprising frequency. An average home game drew just 84.1 percent of the capacity crowd, and that's an embarrassing number for a top-notch playoff team.
Although the atmosphere of the stadium is fantastic, the same just can't be said about the fans' enthusiasm levels. Until playoff time, of course.
I love the vertical "Fieldhouse" sign hanging outside Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the chandelier-esque welcoming sight when you walk into the building, but that's about where the positives end. The rest of the arena isn't very visually appealing, and it doesn't hold a large crowd, either.
Our panel gave the building a 74.5 for aesthetic appeal, with scores ranging from 69 to 80. It's a solid score, but that doesn't help Indiana escape the middle of the pack.
Indiana is helped by the inclusion of ABA success when determining the historical legacy, but it's still not enough to avoid having the past drag this franchise down a little bit. A winning percentage of 50.8 over the history of the franchise isn't a positive when in the realm of the elites.
That said, the Pacers still have one of the best current products out there.
Led by Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West, this is a remarkably dangerous, defensively oriented team that actually has the ability to dethrone the Miami Heat. Is that enough to draw fans this year?
4. Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have great ticket prices, but the price of the courtside seats and the amount you have to pay for parking both drive up the affordability score.
$35.70 is a great price for the average ticket, but having to pay $18 to park drives up that cost of attendance into the No. 15 spot. And with courtside seats against the Miami Heat going for $3,302.50, the luxury total is even less impressive.
Unless you want beer, you're out of luck in Oracle Arena.
The price for adult beverages is pretty solid, but the same just can't be said about everything else. Hot dogs, for example, check in with an average price of $5.75. A 16-ounce soda will typically cost you $4, which is in the latter half of the NBA's arenas.
Money continues to be one of the few deterrents here.
Dubs fans are pretty much untouchable.
They're a passionate bunch, in touch with social media and relentlessly loud from the opening tipoff until the final buzzer. Golden State supporters have developed one of the best reputations in basketball, and it's for good reason.
However, they fall short of the top spot for environment because the food can be rather lackluster in some areas of the stadium, and the ceiling can prevent a full panoramic experience if you sit high enough.
Those nits I have to pick and the 98.9 percent home attendance keep the Dubs just out of the top five. But don't take that as a shot at the fans.
How many of you knew that the Oracle Arena, not Madison Square Garden, was the oldest arena still in use? It's been around since 1966, but you wouldn't know it since the 1997 renovations have given the exterior and interior alike a nice facelift.
It's also a big arena—19,596 is the No. 10 capacity in the Association—and it looks beautiful. From the X's on the exterior to the lines extending out from the scoreboard, everything is streamlined. Our panel of judges gave the Oracle Arena an aesthetic appeal of 88.25, leaving it trailing only the Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden and AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Golden State Warriors already had one of the most appealing products in the NBA. Stephen Curry's presence alone almost guarantees that, as does the historical appeal of this old, old franchise.
But now that Andre Iguodala has joined Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, the Dubs figure to be one of the fringe elites in the Western Conference. This is a highly entertaining and competitive team, even more so than it was in 2012-13.
3. Miami Heat
The Miami Heat don't really have to worry about ticket prices. So long as LeBron James is suiting up in that black-and-red uniform, people are going to pay a lot of money to come watch him produce highlights.
Accordingly, the Heat are charging $72.50 for an average ticket, and that, when combined with the league-high $35 parking, gives them the third-highest average cost of attendance. They trail only the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks.
I have to admit that this was one of the most surprising aspects of all my research. I was expecting the Heat to have some sky-high prices across the board, but the affordability of the beverages allows them to finish in the top half of the category.
The average 16-ounce beer in AmericanAirlines Arena is only $5.33. For an elite team in an expensive city, that's shockingly low. And the same can be said about sodas, which check in at $3.33 for 16 ounces.
Just don't expect to fill up on hot dogs without emptying your wallet.
The only knock on the Miami Heat is that the fans tend to be a little bit fair-weather. They'll leave early if the going gets rough, as evidenced by that unforgettable Game 6 exodus against the San Antonio Spurs.
Other than that, everything is great in this category. Heat fans show up in masses to each and every game (it's hard not to when supporting a team this good), and they stay loud from start to finish. The atmosphere is great (especially with the celebrity sightings), everyone is in touch with social media and the food is delicious.
There just aren't really many complaints here.
The facade of the AmericanAirlines Arena is striking, especially with the view of Biscayne Bay off to the side. And things only get better when you go inside. Miami's scoreboard is particularly phenomenal, with the screens emerging on all sides of a model sun.
Our panel gave the arena an aesthetic appeal of 91.5, trailing only Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center. I also had it third in my personal rankings, but MSG was replaced by US Airways Center.
The only real knock on the building is the capacity crowd. Eight arenas host more people than the Heat's maximum occupancy of 19,600.
It's hard to find a much better current product than the one that the Heat bring to the table on a nightly basis. Winners of each of the last two championships, Miami still boasts all of the title-winning core and features LeBron James, universally viewed as the best player in the world.
So, why aren't they No. 1?
Well, history matters, and the Heat have only been around for 26 seasons. They have a lifetime winning percentage of just 51.5, only claim 26 All-Star appearances and have had just one Hall of Famer suit up for the franchise (Gary Payton).
The historical appeal pushes this franchise slightly behind both of the teams remaining in the overall rankings.
2. San Antonio Spurs
Ever heard the phrase, "You get what you pay for?"
That would apply to the San Antonio Spurs. Years of consistent excellence have allowed them to get away with charging $58.45 for the average ticket.
But hey, at least they discount the price of parking all the way down to just $8.
The San Antonio Spurs know how to make their prices favorable to fans. Well, unless you want to drop $25 on a hat.
Sixteen-ounce beers are only $5 on average, and sodas are literally half of that for the same amount of liquid. As for the latter, it's a price that no other team in the NBA can match. In fact, only the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns check in under $3.
As a reminder, three components of this section are food and beverage score, atmosphere score and fans score. The San Antonio Spurs were one of only three teams to receive perfect marks in all three, joining the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers.
Only two things hold the Spurs back from the top spot.
The fans aren't in touch with social media, ranking just 25th in social media equity. And there aren't sellouts each and every night, as the average home attendance was "only" 99.2 percent.
San Antonio deserves a better arena than the AT&T Center, and they'd likely move up to No. 1 in the overall rankings if they got one.
Although they've won three championships in the building, it isn't very big, nor is it very aesthetically appealing. Although the inside looks good—particularly the ridiculous number of banners hanging down from the rafters—the exterior comes in on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Our panel's scores for aesthetic appeal ranged from 69 to 78, which ultimately prevents San Antonio from moving any higher to the penultimate spot.
You can't help but think about history when you attend a game at the AT&T Center. The halls are filled with commemoratory visual cues, and the court itself has a nearly uncountable number of banners and retired jerseys hanging above it.
But that's not the only positive here.
San Antonio's team is still remarkably competitive. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and Co. will be right in the thick of the race to emerge from the Western Conference and make a return trip to the NBA Finals.
Would you expect anything else?
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
For such an incredibly competitive team, the Oklahoma City Thunder sure make it easy for their fans to attend games.
The average ticket price of $47.15 isn't egregious for a true contender, and the league-low $5 parking helps make up for the initial ticket shock. If any exists, of course.
And believe it or not, this is the second-worst category for OKC.
There really isn't anything too unreasonable if you're looking to spend money once you get to an Oklahoma City Thunder game.
You can get a hat for around $22, buy a hot dog for $4, drink a 16-ounce beer for $5 or down a 16-ounce soda for just under $4. None of those prices are right at the top of the league's totem pole of prices, but they aren't far from the best spot either. And that accumulation of excellence is enough to check in at No. 6 in discretionary spending.
It's hard to find fault with the Oklahoma City environment.
The fans show up each and every night to support their top-notch team. In 2012-13, they filled out exactly 100 percent of the stadium for the average home game. And when they get there, they're quite loud and passionate from start to finish.
The upper deck is called "Loud City" for a reason. And really, the only thing holding back OKC in this category is the PA team's desire to play music and distracting sounds at virtually all times.
As good as the fans in the arena may be, the arena itself isn't anything special.
Chesapeake Energy Arena is a rather nondescript arena, both on the inside and the outside. Our panel took that into account when giving this stadium an aesthetic appeal of just 70. No judge scored it higher than 76, and it finished No. 20 overall.
Additionally, it was originally built to minimum NBA specifications and only holds a capacity crowd of 18,203. Twenty-three arenas can hold more fans, and that doesn't bode well for OKC's score in this category.
What is there to complain about here?
The Thunder get to trot out Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (once he's healthy), and they figure to compete for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference once more after winning 60 games in 2012-13. OKC is one of the best teams in the Association, and they're one of the most entertaining.
As for the historical appeal, the Thunder may not have any championships, but they do get to subsume the Seattle SuperSonics' history, which only helps their case.
You aren't going to be left wanting much when you go to a Thunder contest.