Ranking All 30 NBA Arenas

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2012

Ranking All 30 NBA Arenas

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    With the NBA approaching relevancy again as the opening game on October 30th draws near, it seems important to help you guys with any travel plans you may have.

    Obviously there are plenty of people out there who don't live in a city where NBA basketball is played, and some of those people may be in between a few teams. That's where I come in.

    I'm here to help you plan whatever basketball-related trip you may want to take over the next two-thirds of the year, based on the arenas of each NBA city.

    There are obvious teams that have more historic, fun or state-of-the-art arenas than others, but in the middle there are a bunch of less obvious decisions to make that can't possibly be figured out without some kind of a guide.

    So, I've taken each NBA arena and found those worth visiting and those not worth visiting in a helpful little guide for all. Rankings are based on a multitude of factors, including team history, fan-friendly arenas, location, arena amenities and anything else that might be basketball arena related.

    All in-depth arena information was obtained from ballparks.com.

30. BMO Harris Bradley Center

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    There isn't a more generic looking basketball arena than the Bradley Center in the entire NBA. It serves its purpose as home to a decent basketball team for some pretty good fans, nothing more.

    What makes the Bradley Center any more remarkable than other arenas is that it's in downtown Milwaukee, which is a pretty cool midwestern city.

    As an arena stuck between having historic value and being built like the more recent arenas, Bradley Center is probably one of the least awe-inspiring venues in the NBA.

29. Target Center

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    Aligning themselves with their Eastern Conference equivalent Milwaukee Bucks, the Minnesota Timberwolves have an equally uninspiring arena.

    There isn't anything that necessarily keeps people from coming. Though the arena was built during a time in which teams realized that people might want to be comfortable while watching a game, it wasn't built recently enough to have all the modern-day amenities.

    Perhaps the coolest thing the Target Center has going for it is the big bronze statue of George Mikan throwing up a hook shot in front of the arena.

28. New Orleans Arena

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    What is the New Orleans Arena other than place where they play sports in New Orleans that isn't the Superdome? In fact, the New Orleans Arena looks like the beaten up little brother of the Superdome, sitting right next door looking dingy and dented.

    The arena itself is a relatively new building, but its newness is really the only thing it has going for it. 

    And despite being less than 15 years old, the scoreboard is bulky and bland, the seating is ordinary and nothing really jumps out but the local cuisine, which is to be expected. It's an ordinary arena for an ordinary team.

27. Staples Center (Clippers)

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    To me, it seems like going to Staples Center for a Clippers game would be a bit strange. It's like going to Lambeau Field to see a 50 Cent concert or to Madison Square Garden to see Fiddler on the Roof. I'm sure it's a fine experience, but everything seems to be out of place.

    The entire experience seems like it would scream, "This is the Lakers' home court, the Clippers just borrow it from time to time."

    In the end, maybe that's the problem with the Clippers. Maybe they need to move out of their big brother's apartment and find their own digs. 

26. Quicken Loans Arena

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    Quicken Loans Arena has three main problems with it. First, it was opened in 1994, so it isn't one of the brand new arenas. Second, its name is atrocious and probably the worst in the NBA. And third, it's in Cleveland.

    Oh, okay, so I'm only joking about that third one. I really like Cleveland. For all the crap it gets, it's a very cool city.

    The Q, however, is one of the most ordinary arenas out there. Nothing really jumps out as special, unless you count the fans, who are either awesome or brooding over the most recent Browns loss.

25. The Time Warner Cable Arena

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    It's strange that the third-newest basketball arena can evoke such boredom, even after one sees how cool it looks.

    From the outside, Time Warner Cable Arena is a big, hulking display of beautiful architecture, but on the inside it's just another arena. Its biggest non-basketball attractions are what every arena has: a bar, a restaurant, a team store and a fan interaction zone.

    I guess they do sport a saving grace of having the best scoreboard in the league. Their huge on-screen displays are almost distracting to what's on top of the scoreboard: a three-dimensional replica of Charlotte's skyline. Even I've got to admit that's pretty sweet.

24. Wells Fargo Center

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    In what has to be the coolest few blocks in the country, Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center is stationed just west of Lincoln Financial Field and just around the corner from Citizen's Bank Park.

    Inside the Wells Fargo Center is an oval-shaped stadium that gives everybody in the arena a clean view of the action, a team museum that allows fans to entertain themselves before the game starts, and plenty of concessions.

    Built in 1996, Wells Fargo was the first indoor arena to house a brew pub where you can see the beer-making process, in the form of the Red Bell Brewery & Pub.

23. Chesapeake Energy Arena

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    Here, folks, we have the most geographically confused arena in all of basketball. With the naming rights sold to Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy, we've got a landlocked state roughly 1,500 miles away from the region named after Chesapeake Bay.

    Aside from that, though, this isn't a bad place. It has a pretty boring look as it's basically just a big oval, but it isn't the looks that count—it's what's inside.

    The Arena was built in 2002 for under $100 million (less than what Madison Square Garden was built for in 1968), but the combination of its downtown location and its rabid fan base makes it a nice arena for a team that just came to town a few years back.

22. Verizon Center

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    One slightly dorky but cool part of the Verizon Center is the fact that it's got a Discovery Channel educational center attached to it, along with the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame and the MCI National Sports Gallery.

    Even cooler is that it has a restaurant overlooking the Wizards practice court.

    Outside of the attachments, this is a pretty average arena.  Its location in downtown Washington, D.C. is a pretty cool upside as well. 

21. AT&T Center

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    The AT&T Center is a bit of a puzzling monster.

    On the one hand it's home to a team that has existed since the ABA days, and an arena that is one of the newest in the league (built in 2002) for a team that has won four titles since 1999. 

    However, the AT&T Center is strangely located and, truthfully, a bit big and bulky. It's a drive away from downtown San Antonio and looks like an oversized barn (and smells like it during rodeo season).

    Even still, there isn't enough wrong with the location and look of the place to call it one of the worst in the league, so here it sits.

20. FedEx Forum

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    As the only arena in the league referred to as a "forum" I totally support the name of Memphis' FedEx Forum. Even though it's basically your average NBA arena, its name makes it seem a bit like a stage where grand ideas are shared.

    The 2004-built arena has a huge glass entrance with a glassed-in practice court on the right so you can come watch the team practice when they use the facility.

    Concourses are music-themed ranging from blues to soul to gospel, and I'd be willing to bet that it's the only place in the NBA where you can get fried catfish.

    With this arena I've come to the conclusion that there's nothing uncool about Memphis.

19. Philips Arena

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    The Hawks were one of the first teams, along with the Toronto Raptors, to take an arena that seats upwards of 18,000 people and make it homey and intimate at the same time.

    It has a crazy looking roof with three different levels, and an overhang coming down over the main entrance with support beams spelling out "Atlanta." How cool is that?

    It was around the time of this stadium's creation that arenas started to perfect the upward build that started in the early 1990's, making even the highest seats seem intimate.

    Atlanta might not be the greatest basketball town, but Phillips Arena is a pretty cool place to be even when it's not rocking.

18. Toyota Center

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    As one of the newest arenas in the NBA, the Toyota Center came to town just a few seasons after Yao Ming transformed the Houston Rockets into one of the most interesting teams in the NBA.

    It isn't a pretty stadium as it's basically just a building with a dome on top, but it's in the middle of downtown Houston with basically any kind of bar or restaurant you could want in the vicinity. 

    What the Toyota Center does have, however, is one of the coolest scoreboards in the NBA. Most scoreboards are a series of four to six screens hanging above the center of the court, but what Houston has is four screens on the bottom of a round facing with eight more circling above it.

17. Barclays Center

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    I've got no real way of saying the Barclays Center is a good place to watch a basketball game just yet, but it seems like one hell of a place to hang out for a few hours.

    First there's the herringbone floor, which is too cool not to mention, set among a background of thousands of black seats. It's kind of intimidating.

    Furthermore, if you're a person who goes to a game and checks their phone every five minutes then this is the place for you. They offer free wi-fi, plenty of internet access points and if you're buying a suite they'll give you an iPad, complete with 60 channels and NBA League Pass.

    Even still, nobody has seen a basketball game here yet, so I can't bump it into the top half even though it is a brand new arena.

16. Oracle Arena

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    As the only arena that outdates Madison Square Garden, it will be a bit sad to see this one go when the Warriors move across the bridge over to San Francisco in 2017.

    For its age, The Oracle is still very up-to-date after a renovation in 1997—arguably the best thing that Christopher Cohan for the Warriors in the decade-and-a-half that he ran the team.

    Oracle Arena is not exactly a memorable building in terms of its look, but when it gets rocking there are very few arenas in the NBA that feel anywhere near as exciting as this one.

15. Energy Solutions Arena

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    After opening in 1991, the beautiful EnergySolutions Arena was on track to see a lot of history in the coming year. Unfortunately that history didn't always end the way Jazz fans hoped.

    If you want to go to the place where Michael Jordan took his final shot as a member of the Chicago Bulls then this is the place to go, but if you want to go to a place with a championship banner hanging in the rafters, look elsewhere.  

    Even still, you've got a place here where the fans are smart, the people are excited about basketball and there are some really recognizable names hanging in the rafters.

14. Arco Power Balance Sleep Train Pavilion Arena

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    As long as it's standing, throw out the ridiculous new name and keep calling this one Arco Arena. Due to the sale of the new naming rights to Sleep Train Mattress Centers, the arena has recently been renamed the Sleep Train Arena. Yikes.

    What you get at Arco Arena is not necessarily an arena full of fans, but a group of fans who are legitimately dedicated to the game of basketball.

    Going beyond the actual basketball game, the Sacramento stadium has a wide variety of food to choose from, including Mexican, salads, pastas and even fresh squeezed orange juice and lemonade. Now only if they'd have a game at nine in the morning so you could eat breakfast there.

13. Pepsi Center

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    A mile high up in Denver there's an arena that is fan friendly and as exciting as the team that's playing there.

    It's a new enough arena so that the place isn't too shoddy or spread out, but it's not so new that there's no charm to the building.

    Denver's concessions are said to be some of the best in the league, complete with high-scale and old-school options. Everything from Mexican to desserts to chicken wings can be found throughout the arena, alongside a bar with an outside view and a complete buffet.

12. Amway Center

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    The Orlando Magic's brand new(ish), nearly $500 million arena has to be at the top of the list of the most technologically advanced NBA arenas, but that doesn't necessarily make it the best NBA arena.

    Amway Center is home to over 1,000 high definition television screens, a brand new jumbo-tron and a screen on the outside of the building measuring a towering 46 feet high.

    At the very least, the Magic got rid of the horrendous Amway Arena and replaced it with a state-of-the-art stadium where fans will actually be comfortable and happy while watching Big Baby star on the 2013 Magic.

11. US Airways Center

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    Phoenix may be without a certain star point guard, but at least they've got a super cool arena to call home with a new and improved court design.

    US Airway has some of the best sight-lines of any arena in the NBA, making the viewing experience as good as you can get for your hard-earned money.

    It's an easily accessible arena that has started using solar panels to help power the building, in a city that might not be the coolest location in the league but has plenty to do otherwise.

10. American Airlines Arena

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    Here you see a shot of the American Airlines Arena five minutes into game four of the NBA Finals against the Thunder.

    Okay, so the fans there aren't that bad, but what they've got is a terrific arena to get you in the door and a lot to keep you happy while you're inside.

    One of the most obviously different aspects of this arena is the scoreboard, which is probably the most unique board in the league.

    If you can deal with the public address guy going all-out to annoy anyone who isn't a Heat fan, then this is definitely a place to check out.

9. American Airlines Center

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    Not to be confused with the American Airlines Arena, the American Airlines Center is the brainchild of Mark Cuban and currently one of the best arenas in the NBA.

    With just Brad Davis and Rolando Blackman's jerseys hanging in the rafters, the place doesn't have much history to speak of, although there is a championship banner hanging upstairs.

    The scoreboard is huge, but unfortunately for the Mavericks they only boast the second-biggest scoreboard in Dallas, thanks to Jerry Jones' monster of a stadium.

    Dallas also happens to be one of the most unique arenas to eat in with everything from a Tex-Mex cuisine to a gourmet cookie bar to a Dr. Pepper bottling plant.

8. The Palace of Auburn Hills

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    While its construction marked the beginning of NBA super-arenas, it was done in such a quirky, charming way that it's hard not to look at The Palace of Auburn Hills with a bit of endearment.

    What makes The Palace so great, besides the fact that the team had a big enough opinion of the place to call it a palace, is that it's big in a way that no other arena is big. Whereas most arenas build upward so that fans at the top don't get terrible views, The Palace is built more outward so that the lower bowl is absolutely enormous.

    The Palace isn't the most fan friendly, it's in a terrible location, there's not a huge selection of food, but it's an embodiment of Detroit despite being located a half hour outside of the city.

7. Air Canada Centre

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    As an expansion franchise back in 1995, the Raptors did right by fans when they built the Air Canada Centre to replace the SkyDome in 1999.

    Aside from the fact that the building is built around the Toronto Postal Delivery Building, which is over 70 years old and makes for a pretty cool façade, there's also a freaking Molson Brewery in the stadium, and a Rickard's Brewery as well. I'm not sure whether the beer Rickard's brews is any good or not, but it sounds good to me.

    Then you have to factor in that it's in the heart of Toronto, it's a relatively new arena and it's full of Canadians, which just sounds delightful.

6. Staples Center (Lakers)

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    This is a lot more about the experience than it is about actual history and fan-friendly amenities in the Staples Center.

    It's an extremely different look than the setup for Clippers games, even though it's basically the same thing.   More importantly, it's not as awkward for Lakers fans realizing that their team is the one that created all the history in the building.

    Going to Staples Center for a Lakers game is about seeing all the retired numbers and championship banners hanging from the rafters, ogling the celebrities and, occasionally, watching the game. Still, you can't discount how cool Staples Center is for a Lakers game.

5. United Center

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    There are a lot of complaints from the old fogies who harp about the old Chicago Stadium being missed in Chicago, and they have a legitimate gripe.

    Where Chicago Stadium's outdated scoreboard and hard seats gave the place a personality, the United Center is an enormous creation, built before teams were able to really pin down how to balance seating capacity with charm and allure.

    Even still, Michael Jordan's second three-peat happened in this arena, and there's a ton of history in that. Going to the United Center for that alone would be worth the trip.

4. Bankers Life Fieldhouse

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    There's a reason that this is the only NBA arena called a "fieldhouse." Back before super-arenas were thrown together to house 20,000 people and allow for the best experience possible, fieldhouses were used for pretty much all indoor sports.

    A fieldhouse looks like a cross between an enormous barn and an 1800's textile factory. The exterior of Bankers Life Fieldhouse definitely harkens back to those days.

    What makes it even cooler is that a practice facility is attached to the fieldhouse and fans can look down into practices when they're held there from the street.

    There's not another arena in the league that does the retro look as well as Indiana while simultaneously keeping fan comfort and enjoyment at the forefront.

3. Rose Garden

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    Right off the bat this arena is cool just because of its name. The rights haven't been sold to anyone, so they've just named it after the city's nickname.

    The Rose Garden is not only one of the coolest looking arenas from the exterior, but it also seems like one of the best basketball experiences possible. The food selection here includes everything from the classic hot dog-beer combo to a place for Italian food and even a freaking cigar bar.

    Forget the fact that you'd be viewing a game with some of the most passionate fans in the NBA, this place is just cool from top to bottom.

2. TD Bank Garden

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    If it were still the Boston Garden it would be number one, without a doubt, but the Celtics decided a new arena was necessary in 1995 after the Larry Bird Era ended and the Celtics were a team without a face, and in doing so weakened a bit of their historical value.

    Even in the new arena, history literally hangs around. Boston's got nearly two dozen player jerseys and important figures with banners hanging in the rafters to go along with 17 NBA Championship banners.

    I'm sure there are people that can tell you every single reason why the TD Garden is nothing compared to the old Boston Garden, but I'm also sure that I could go in there and get goosebumps to this day.

1. Madison Square Garden

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    The fourth incarnation (and hopefully there's never a fifth) of Madison Square Garden has been through enough history that it's surprising there's never been a battle fought inside its walls.

    While battles raged between Reggie Miller and Spike Lee, the clinching title game in 1970, the first Ali-Frazier fight and countless pop culture figures rolling through, the Knicks endured all.

    They remain there to this day, and whether or not their blunders are too much for fans to endure these days, it remains one of the most awe-inspiring arenas in all of sports—not just basketball.


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