In sports, the idea of ranking a player or team is as fundamental as the game itself—at least in the eyes of the media and fans. It represents the source of endless conversational and talk show fodder, if not spirited debates encompassed within those.
But what about the venues that those players and teams play in? We often take them for granted, but given the fact that professional sports teams are billion-dollar businesses, wouldn’t it make sense to have the best possible “home” for those teams and players – more importantly, a home that owners want fans to visit?
In that spirt, we’ve decided to rank the 29 arenas that National Basketball Association (NBA) teams call home, heading into the 2019-2020 season:
29. Target Center (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Prior to the Minneapolis City Council approving renovation plans for the home of the Minnesota Timberwolves (and Minnesota Wild), the Target center was in need of a revamp — reflected in this current ranking of dead last among all sporting venues.
Given the preference for football in the area, and given how brutal the winters in Minnesota can be, the stadiums “powers that be” have constantly pondered how to make attending these games more fan friendly — even if the product on the court hasn’t always held up their end of the business deal.
28. Smoothie King Center (New Orleans Hornets)
In the early days of the franchise being relocated to New Orleans, before Anthony Davis became a bona fide superstar, it was quite easy to walk up to the box office on a given night, and purchase premium tickets (for a non-premium cost).
Even with the Smoothie King Center being located just a short walk away from the heart of the Big Easy, the Pelicans still struggle to draw a consistent group of fans — especially in the fall, when they’re competing with LSU football and the New Orleans Saints. And it’s not like there are a ton of amenities at the arena to make it worth visiting on its own either.
27. Spectrum Center (Charlotte Hornets)
Regardless of the disparity among reviews and fan feedback that you see for most NBA arenas, one thing remained consistent for the Charlotte Hornets: the Spectrum Center was consistently rated among the least-preferred stadium venues in all of professional basketball.
Even after the city decided to pour $34 million worth of renovations into the stadium when Charlotte hosted the NBA All-Star game in 2017, said updates clearly didn’t do anything to raise the profile of the arena in the eyes of the NBA universe. And having a basketball team that consistently remains in NBA purgatory certainly doesn’t help either.
26. Capital One Arena (Washington Wizards)
Owner Ted Leonsis has always had his work cut out for him, in terms of getting fans to come to Capital One Arena to watch the Washington Wizards play basketball (especially considering he has no such challenge doing the same thing when it comes to fans packing in the stadium to watch the Washington Capitals of the NHL).
During a regular season game, fans are often so quiet during the basketball action itself that you wonder if they’re downright comatose. Anyone who attends Wizards’ games regularly can attest to the fact that the only time Wizards’ fans make any noise, outside of when the team hosts a postseason game, is when the stadium crew is giving away free merchandise during the game itself.
25. Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia Sixers)
Given where the venue ranked on this list, after what was a near-consensus of negative fan reviews, it’s no surprise that the stadium is in the midst of what it calls the “Transformation 2020” initiative.
Said initiative will provide a major facelift to the stadium, including tons of new 4k screens, new amenities for the club suites, and the Pièce De Résistance of the updates: two sportsbook lounges open to all visitors, which will feature a bar and seating areas, televisions and odds boards which fans can use to for live in-game betting.
23. Talking Stick Resort Arena (Phoenix Suns)
If you’re wondering where the heck this arena name came from, look no further than the former American West Arena being purchased by yet another corporate sponsor. That didn’t change the fact that, even with the success the team enjoyed in the 2000’s, they’ve been among the last arenas to get a facelift in the NBA.
Then again, if we’re being honest, far more people get amped up to head to the arena when the WWE is in town, versus watching a Suns game. The venue has already hosted a ton of pro wrestling weeknight and pay-per-view events.
23. Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse seats 19,432 people when set up for a basketball game, making it one of the largest arenas in the NBA. Of course, it probably looked a lot more packed when LeBron James was playing in Cleveland, as opposed to right now.
You might’ve heard the stadium name pop up in a non-sports capacity in recent years, though, as the stadium was the venue for the 2016 Republican National Convention. Don’t worry, we’ll stick to sports, though.
22. Barclays Center (Brooklyn Nets)
Considered to be the crown jewel of the NBA’s relocation of the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, it feels surprising to see the Barclays Center so far down this list. Sure, the Nets drew the lowest total fans per average game during the 2018-2019 season, but that’s very likely to change with the arrivals of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
Of course, the venue is one of the most popular arenas in the world for most things non-sports; According to Billboard Magazine, Barclays Center passed Madison Square Garden as the highest-grossing venue in the US for concerts and family shows.
21. FedEx Forum (Memphis Grizzlies)
A stadium that combines NBA basketball with the city’s rich musical history, with decorations that include paintings and murals of Memphis legends like Justin Timberlake, Elvis Presley, and B.B. King, those who actually attend games at FedEx Forum do enjoy the experience.
Even with constant questions about the future of the team in Memphis (especially given that the team is among the bottom five in average fan attendance per game), many of the fans who attend Grizzlies’ laud the fact that the ability to view the game is among the better experiences you’ll find.
20. Toyota Center (Houston Rockets)
When driving up and down I-69 in central Houston, it’s hard to miss the Toyota Center, nestled just outside of midtown. When built in 2003, the stadium was given multiple accolades for what was then an innovative look and feel amongst NBA stadiums.
Today, while it’s the home of the always-competitive Houston Rockets, it’s nothing really to get excited about, especially in comparison to some of the newer, high-tech venues. Maybe the Rockets’ impetuous new team owner, Tilman Fertitta, will make some changes for the better.
19. Vivint Smart Home Arena (Utah Jazz)
In the heart of all old-school hoop heads, especially those who were able to witness the “Stockton to Malone” era, the home of the Utah Jazz will always be the Delta Center. But said arena was renamed in 2015, after being purchased by Utah-based home security system provider Vivint.
Even with the stadium having undergone two renovation projects in the past 20 years, Vivint decided the stadium was still lacking, and underwent another one as soon as they got the naming rights.
18. Pepsi Center (Denver Nuggets)
The Pepsi Center, opened in 1999, is another one of the venues in the NBA that’s almost two-decades old, yet remains the current home for their pro sports team.
The biggest thing that hurts this ranking is the fact that, no matter how good the team might be, the Denver Nuggets are often fighting for 3rd or 4th place status among the city’s top professional sports teams, almost always being lower down spectrum of fan interest compared to the Denver Broncos and Colorado Avalanche.
17. State Farm Arena (Atlanta Hawks)
For many professional sports fans in Atlanta, a basketball arena by another name will still be largely ignored. It’s no secret that in college-sports crazy Georgia, the professional sports teams have a hard time drawing fans. And even among the pro sports teams, the Hawks often trail the Falcons and Braves in terms of fan popularity.
Of course, the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority — who owns the stadium — didn’t really endear themselves to Atlanta sports fans when their disagreements with the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream led the team to begin looking for other home venue options for their games.
16. Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Chesapeake Energy Arena is almost like a “large event” epicenter in Oklahoma City, serving as not only the host of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but also the near-exclusive venue for concerts, family and social events, conventions, ice shows, and civic events.
But when it comes to the basketball games there, nobody will question the fact that Thunder fans will make the venue one of the loudest and most raucous places for opposing teams to play in — even in a mid-January game during “the dog days” of the NBA season.
15. Oracle Arena (Golden State Warriors)
Even though it quickly became one of the hardest (and most expensive) tickets in town, thanks to the current Golden State Warriors dynasty, Oracle Arena was one of the few venues which has continued to serve as the host to their present NBA team since the 1970’s.
For 12-straight seasons, through 2017, “The O” drew over 18,000 fans per game to watch the Warriors play. Now, the big question is, where will the Chase Center — the brand new, state-of-the-art future home home of the Warriors — rank, after we get a better sense of the experience in their new digs?
14. Little Caesars Arena (Detroit Pistons)
Depending on whereabouts in the United States you might live, it’s hard to believe that Little Casears Pizza still exists, let alone has the naming rights to the arena that succeeded the iconic Palace at Auburn Hills.
But the new home of the Detroit Pistons, opened in 2017, was the crown jewel of yet another “sports megaplex” effort that you see nowadays, as the stadium will soon be right in the midst of a 650k square foot sports and entertainment area that’s known as “The Detroit District.”
13. AT&T Center (San Antonio Spurs)
Don’t tell the super-fans of the San Antonio Spurs that they don’t have one of the 10 best stadiums in the NBA. Opened in 2002 (when it was then called the SBC Center), the arena consistently packs in denizens of Spurs fans who’ll shout “Go Spurs Go” all game long.
However, in the summer of 2015 (just one year after the team won the NBA Finals), the stadium underwent a significant renovation project, with the goal of adding a new scoreboard, more state-of-the-art TV’s inside and outside the arena (along with equally brand new sound systems), and in a major nod to improving the fan experience, improving the WiFi capability throughout the arena.
12. Fiserv Forum (Milwaukee Bucks)
The Fiserv Forum was the much-needed successor to the BMO Harris Bradley Center, considered by many to be an absolute relic of a stadium in the eyes of the NBA world.
The long-discussed initiative by former team owner Herb Kohl was finally completed in 2018, and now serves as the home of one of the NBA’s true transcendent talents in Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Fans better keep packing in the brand-spanking-new stadium nightly if they want to retain hope of keeping Giannis in Wisconsin.
11. Golden 1 Center (Sacramento Kings)
Sacramento Kings’ owner Vivek Ranadive still might not have a clue as to how to run an NBA team, but he still deserves some credit for making the Sacramento Kings an integral part of the city’s community. Golden 1 Center, the successor to Sleep Train Arena as Ranadive’s team’s home, is composed of “locally sourced” construction materials that range from glass to recycled aluminum to even precast concrete.
But the stadium is about so much more than the brick and mortar; Ranadive has spared few expenses on the inside, including having free wi-fi connections at the arena which boast being 17,000 times faster than the average home network.
10. Amway Center (Orlando Magic)
Despite the fact that any professional team in central Florida has to compete with the fan interest in all the college sports teams, the Amway Center — opened in September as the successor to the old Amway Center (formerly known by many local fans as the “O”-rena) — is the current home of the Orlando Magic, and one of the most highly-reviewed NBA arenas in the league.
Considered to be “one of the most technologically advanced venues in the world,” the Amway Center has the type of screens and interactive content that most sports fans can only dream about owning in their respective sports-viewing caves.
9. American Airlines Center (Dallas Mavericks)
Lots of credit goes to Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban for making this franchise as much of a fan-friendly product as possible, fully recognizing that it won’t be hard to sell it to the fans in a sports-crazy city like Dallas. Before Cuban, the Mavericks were something of an NBA afterthought, especially given their penchant for not being able to retain young talent and a franchise winning percentage of under 40%.
But in just over 10 years after buying the team, Cuban’s ownership helped put the team in position to win the first NBA title in franchise history, and make it one of the most popular tickets in town. During the 2018-2019 season, the Mavericks averaged the third-most fans per game.
8. Moda Center (Portland Trail Blazers)
Even if it no longer known as “The Rose Garden,” Moda Center is still one of the mainstays of “The Rose City.” In fact, when the stadium was to be renamed to The Moda Center, after Oregon-based Moda Health struck a 10-year sponsorship deal with Paul Allen’s ownership group, it was met with substantial backlash by residents of the greater Portland area, who preferred the old name. Unfortunately, here we are.
In fairness to Portland fans: while we ourselves think the Rose Garden was a far better stadium name, the consolation prize is that the unique acoustics of the stadium still make it one of the most exciting venues in the NBA to watch a game.
7. TD Garden (Boston Celtics)
Any longtime fan of the Boston Celtics will tell you that TD Garden, even though ranked this highly, couldn’t hold a candle to the old Boston Garden, when it comes to in-game atmosphere. But the Garden was demolished over two decades ago, making TD Garden the new epicenter for Boston Celtics’ basketball.
And before the boom of new stadium development we’re seeing in all of processional sports, TD Garden was considered to be among the best NBA venues in the league. In 2007 and 2009, the venue was nominated by various sporting bodies as being among the best sports stadiums in the country.
6. United Center (Chicago Bulls)
For the majority of the 1990’s, a ticket to watch the Chicago Bulls at the United Center was among the most coveted items in all of professional sports events, regular season or otherwise. Between watching the phenomenon that was Michael Jordan, and watching the team’s iconic “Running of the Bulls” entrance, watching a game the the United Center was an absolute experience.
The Bulls obviously haven’t had the same level of success in the post-Jordan era, but for the sports-crazed Chicago fans, that drought hasn’t diminished the love the city has for the Bulls, or the draw that the venue still packs each night — the Bulls averaged the 2nd-most fans per game in the NBA last season.
5. Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indiana Pacers)
In case you’re wondering how or why Bankers Life Fieldhouse is ranked so highly on this list, don’t forget that few states in this country identify so synonymously with basketball as Indiana.
The successor to the beloved Market Square Arena, once known as Conseco Fieldhouse, tried to combine the nostalgia of an “old school” basketball gym with the modern amenities needed at any new basketball arena. Plus, with the stadium being located right in the heart of (underrated) downtown Indianapolis, that makes it easy for fans to make an entire event of Indiana Pacers’ games.
4. AmericanAirlines Arena (Miami Heat)
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their collective talents to South Beach to form the “Big 3” on the Miami Heat, NBA fans and media used to compare the atmosphere of an ordinary Miami Heat game as having the same “electricity” as when a musical group like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones were performing.
But even with the departure of James and the retirement of Bosh and Wade, and even in a city where it’s hard to draw fans to sporting events (because the weather is so perfect that nobody wants to sit indoors for several hours), the Heat still draw the 5th-most fans per game in the NBA.
3. Scotiabank Arena (Toronto Raptors)
The name might’ve changed in the summer of 2018 when the major Canadian bank signed a 20-year sponsorship agreement worth approximately $800 million (Canadian), but the fans who fill it up, and the fanfare during the games of the Toronto Raptors themselves, hasn’t changed. Just take a look at the way the fans packed that stadium and demonstrated a level of unbridled joy when the Raptors made it to — and eventually won — the 2018-2019 NBA Finals.
Between the energy in the arena itself, coupled with the outdoor viewing setups (appropriately nicknamed “Jurassic Park”), there’s no question that the NBA’s lone Canadian team has among the very best stadiums in the league.
2. Staples Center (Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers)
it can be argued that no (regular season) sporting event can compare to sitting amidst the glitz and glam of the Tinseltown crowd, anytime you attend a Los Angeles Lakers (or even Los Angeles Clippers) game at the Staples Center.
You could be attending a mid-season game, look down at the floor, and see anyone from Jack Nicholson, Leo DiCaprio, or Snoop Dogg walking to and from their courtside seat. And at Clippers games? While you’re very likely to find actor & comedian Billy Crystal on any given evening, if you happen to time it right, there’s a good chance you might see Rihanna taking in the action in the same venue you are.
1. Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks)
Regardless of how putrid the NBA team is that plays there, no other venue can take the #1 ranking besides the place that Michael Jordan himself dubbed “the Mecca of basketball.”
In fact, it’s a basketball tragedy that James Dolan, the ignorant and boorish owner of the New York, also serves as the executive chairman and CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company — the holding company of the venue itself. No man as incompetent as him should in control of one of the most iconic sports-viewing locations in the United States, if not the world. Memo to Knicks’ fans: keep up the good fight in demanding Dolan sells the team (and steps down as CEO of the holding company).