Every NBA Arena Ranked, Worst to First
The 1990s were a pretty awesome time to be an NBA fan — not only was the sport exploding in popularity, but the chances were, if you had an NBA team in your town, you were getting a new arena.
Of the NBA's 30 arenas, 16 of them were built in the 1990s, with six opening their doors in 1999 alone. In the ensuing decades, we've seen dynasties rise and fall in many of these arenas and a new round of high-tech venues pop up as well.
When it comes to the NBA, nothing beats getting to see the greatest athletes in the world in person. Here's a look at every single NBA arena, ranked from worst to first.
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30. Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks)
Location: New York, New York
Bottom line: The most famous arena in the world is also the NBA's oldest arena and has more history than 75 percent of the other NBA arenas combined.
Here's the problem — nobody should be OK with the face-recognition technology MSG uses to suss out and eject owner James Dolan's perceived enemies when they try to attend events at MSG. Enemies who seem to primarily be made up of journalists and lawyers.
Big Brother is real, y'all.
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29. Smoothie King Center (New Orleans Pelicans)
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Bottom line: What's going on with the New Orleans Pelicans is a direct result of the apathy the people in New Orleans and even their own ownership group views the franchise. At the center of that apathy is the Smoothie King Center.
There's a particular feeling of blandness that washes over you when you walk into the arena that's hard to put your finger on … it's like having something important to do and trying not to fall asleep. I hate it here.
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28. Barclays Center (Brooklyn Nets)
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Bottom line: This lobotomy of a basketball arena is truly a blight on Brooklyn — its personality has been described as "ice cold," which just about sums it up.
Basketball arenas should almost by and large have one of two looks. You can go classic fieldhouse or at least have elements of a fieldhouse to it. Or you can go old-school arena. Generally, that's a roundish structure that resembles the classic idea of an arena across all sports. What you don't do is build a basketball arena that looks like the Barclays Center, which seems to draw its inspiration from the wavy, futuristic soccer stadiums in Europe. Great place to see a concert. Bad place to watch basketball.
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27. Target Center (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Bottom line: Now the second-oldest arena in the NBA behind Madison Square Garden, the Target Center holds no such cache with fans or the general public. It's a gigantic testament to one of the worst franchises in all of professional sports.
An approximately $140 million renovation in 2017 did nothing to make anyone feel better about the product inside the arena. The Timberwolves haven't been past the first round of the playoffs since 2004 and missed the postseason entirely for the 13 seasons following that.
It's bad enough to live somewhere that's freezing for the majority of the basketball season. Is it too much to ask for the team to be competitive?
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26. Capital One Arena (Washington Wizards)
Location: Washington, D.C.
Bottom line: While it's not the worst arena in the NBA in my book, you can definitely make an argument that Capital One Arena is the most hated. People really don't like going to watch games in the nation's capital and the team is so bad you might begin to think the franchise's time at this arena has been cursed.
The source of that curse is probably one of two things. One could be the almost-complete gentrification of the Asian-American neighborhood that once surrounded the arena — a population that was once around 3,000 now numbers 300, and the disappearance of the locally owned restaurants and shops is heartbreaking. Or it could just be the decision to change the name from the Bullets to the Wizards before moving into the new arena in 1997. Take your pick!
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25. Spectrum Center (Charlotte Hornets)
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Bottom line: The Spectrum Center has been put to better use four times hosting the NCAA Tournament and two times hosting the ACC Tournament than it has in the almost 20 years with its main tenant being the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets are a miserable franchise that hasn't made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2002 and have only been in the playoffs three times since then and not since 2017. Woof.
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24. Amway Center (Orlando Magic)
Location: Orlando, Florida
Bottom line: Only 13 years old, the Amway Center should just be coming into its prime as an NBA arena, but instead, we're talking about it as one of the worst places to watch a game in the entire league. Why? Mainly because of bad basketball, as the team has missed the playoffs nine times in the 13 seasons since the Amway Center opened — and the four playoff appearances have all been first-round exits.
When the team that plays there is routinely awful, an arena needs some pretty outstanding features to elevate it as a game-going experience. The Amway Center is nice enough but not special in any real way to distinguish itself.
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23. Toyota Center (Houston Rockets)
Location: Houston, Texas
Bottom line: Twenty years into its existence, the Toyota Center's overriding memory (outside of James Harden's time there) is a game from December 2004 between the Houston Rockets and visiting San Antonio Spurs. Trailing 76-68 with 33 seconds left and fans flooding the exits, Houston's Tracy McGrady scored 13 points (in 33 seconds!) and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the win.
I guess what I'm saying is it's been a long time since you could feel good about spending your money to watch basketball here.
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22. Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Bottom line: This arena that was only ever fun when LeBron James was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That's a fact.
Fans in Cleveland should pray he decides to return in his early 40s for a third stint with the team.
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21. Delta Center (Utah Jazz)
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Bottom line: Why haven't the Jazz's ownership group or the people of Salt Lake City built a new arena for their NBA team? I can understand the desire to preserve history in some form and the hesitancy to move forward with a new arena because you want to properly honor a great legacy.
But that's not what this is. The legacy is back-to-back losses in the NBA Finals over 20 years ago. Want a chance at ever getting back? Build a new arena.
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20. State Farm Arena (Atlanta Hawks)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Bottom line: At no point in its existence has State Farm Arena's primary tenant, the Atlanta Hawks, ever been more than the third-most-popular pro sports team in the city behind the Falcons and the Braves. The Hawks have done little to help themselves in their history and haven't made the NBA Finals since 1961, which was seven years before the franchise moved from St. Louis to Atlanta.
Believe what your eyes tell you the few times the Hawks make it to a nationally televised game in 2023-24 … which means there are plenty of good seats open.
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19. Paycom Center (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Bottom line: The salad days of fans coming out in droves to see Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are long gone. In fact, the Oklahoma City Thunder's attendance has bottomed out over the last three years as they've undergone a dramatic roster overhaul and seen their home attendance numbers plummet.
The Thunder might have one of the NBA's best young rosters moving forward, but the ship may have sailed on the Paycom Center being a hot ticket.
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18. Little Caesars Arena (Detroit Pistons)
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Bottom line: Rarely does an NBA franchise play second fiddle in its home arena, but the Detroit Pistons have become experts at it since beginning their co-habitation with the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena in 2017.
That's too bad because people in Detroit love basketball and would embrace a winner — something the Pistons can't say they've been consistently since the late 2000s. People don't want to pay to see losing basketball.
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17. Gainbridge Fieldhouse (Indiana Pacers)
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Bottom line: Things aren't going well in Indianapolis. The Pacers haven't made the playoffs in three years and haven't made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2014.
Being so bad has had an effect on the bottom line and the in-game experience — the franchise has been either last or next-to-last in average home attendance over the last three years.
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16. Frost Bank Center (San Antonio Spurs)
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Bottom line: The home arena of the San Antonio Spurs got a new name in August 2023 when it changed to the Frost Bank Center — it had been known as the AT&T Center since 2006. The Spurs are one of the NBA's great franchises but haven't made the postseason in four years and have seen their home attendance drop steadily in that time.
But it's a new day in San Antonio after selecting French center Victor Wembanyama at No. 1 overall in 2023 — new arena name, new star, new team. Get your tickets now.
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15. Intuit Dome (Los Angeles Clippers)
Location: Inglewood, California
Opened: Scheduled to open in 2024
Bottom line: This is kind of a cheat because the Intuit Dome doesn't open until 2024, but I felt like it needed to be on the list because of what it means to the Clippers and to the rest of the NBA. And because we already know it's going to be dope.
It doesn't matter what professional sport we're talking about — sharing an arena or stadium always seems weird, and it would be hard to create your own identity as a team. The Clippers haven't had their own arena since leaving Los Angeles Memorial Arena for the Staples Center in 1999, and their new digs reportedly cost $2 billion to build — equal to the amount Steve Ballmer paid to buy the team in 2014.
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14. American Airlines Center (Dallas Mavericks)
Location: Dallas, Texas
Bottom line: Just over 20 years into its existence, American Airlines Center is holding up pretty well both inside and outside — you still can't beat that primo location in downtown Dallas and have to credit owner Mark Cuban for making sure his team has stayed (mostly) competitive since the arena opened.
It also helps that the Mavericks have a player in Luka Doncic, who is good enough that wherever you watched him play would seem awesome.
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13. Golden 1 Center (Sacramento Kings)
Location: Sacramento, California
Bottom line: No arena on this list saw more of a leap over the last year than the Golden 1 Center after the Sacramento Kings ended a 16-year postseason drought. The arena's "Light the Beam" marketing campaign — shooting a purple beam into the sky out of the top of the arena following wins — has a real superhero quality to it that has absolutely caught fire with the fanbase.
Sacramento deserves something nice. This is it.
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12. Scotiabank Arena (Toronto Raptors)
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Bottom line: Most NBA fans can center their experience with Scotiabank Arena around the 2019 NBA Playoffs when we all got to see fans of the Toronto Raptors going absolutely berserk on the way to their team pulling a stunning upset of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
That type of energy was going to be hard to sustain, but by and large, Raptor fans have remained steadfastly loyal, and the outdoor area around the arena — known as "Jurassic Park" — is second to none.
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11. Moda Center (Portland Trail Blazers)
Location: Portland, Oregon
Bottom line: Going to see the Portland Trail Blazers play at the Moda Center — Rose Garden to the old heads — means you're at the only show in town when it comes to professional sports in Oregon and the only show in town when it comes to professional basketball in the Pacific Northwest.
While the basketball isn't always great, the vibes are always outstanding.
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10. FedEx Forum (Memphis Grizzlies)
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Bottom line: The main complaint you hear about FedEx Forum is that it's cramped — totally possible considering the electric brand of basketball that's been played here since the team drafted point guard Ja Morant in 2019.
And therein lies the dilemma. Morant is suspended for the first 25 games of the 2023-24 season for flashing a gun on Instagram Live, and his future in Memphis is very much in doubt. If he comes back and the vibes are still off, FedEx Forum won't be a very fun place to be.
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9. Fiserv Forum (Milwaukee Bucks)
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Bottom line: Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo revitalized the Milwaukee Bucks over the last decade with two NBA Most Valuable Player awards and the first NBA championship in 50 years in 2021. Antetokounmpo is the central reason Fiserv Forum has become a fun place to watch basketball, and as long as he's playing for the Bucks, that won't change.
The problem there is that Antetokounmpo has already said he won't sign a contract extension with the Bucks, casting his future with the franchise very much in doubt.
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8. Footprint Center (Phoenix Suns)
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Bottom line: Sure the Footprint Center is one of the NBA's oldest arenas — it's also consistently been home to one of the NBA's best fanbases over the last 30 years. When the Suns are good, you really can't beat playing a game here, and we're on the verge of the Suns getting ALL of the hype headed into the 2023-24 NBA season with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal and DeAndre Ayton all on the floor.
And never forget ... "SUNS IN FOUR!"
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7. Ball Arena (Denver Nuggets)
Location: Denver, Colorado
Bottom line: One of the six NBA arenas that opened in 1999, it's also important to point out that people, by and large, still refer to Ball Arena as the Pepsi Center, which was its name from the time it opened through 2020.
Ball Arena has one of the things we really value in an NBA arena (outside of a good basketball team) and gives it a lot of weight on this list — being located close to the city's main entertainment district. LoDo (downtown Denver) is right there waiting for you. And that's a wonderful thing.
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6. Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia 76ers)
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bottom line: There's a long tradition of NBA basketball in Philadelphia being a great in-game experience for fans, from Dr. J to Charles Barkley to Allen Iverson to 2023 NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid. It sucks that the Wells Fargo Center is on its fourth name since it opened in 1996, but the reason the arena works so well isn't because of the name. It's because of the fans.
With the value of the team skyrocketing past $3.1 billion in 2022, it was no surprise the ownership group has announced plans to build a new arena for the 76ers.
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5. TD Garden (Boston Celtics)
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Bottom line: The pure love of NBA basketball in Boston will elevate whatever arena the Celtics play in — whether it be Boston Garden or TD Garden or whatever arena eventually replaces the current one.
This is kind of what I'm looking for in a basketball arena in terms of architecture and aesthetics — a big 'ol block of concrete that's there for the sole purpose of playing basketball.
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4. Kaseya Center (Miami Heat)
Location: Miami, Florida
Bottom line: The Miami Heat consistently find themselves toward the top of the list when it comes to annual NBA home attendance figures, and watching games here where the fans go in "whiteout" mode is a staple for NBA television viewers.
The fact that the Heat has consistently been one of the NBA's best teams for almost 20 years helps, as does the fact that, when you leave the arena, you're smack dab in the middle of Miami. At that moment, the world is truly your oyster.
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3. Crypto.com Arena (Los Angeles Lakers)
Location: Los Angeles, California
Bottom line: Maybe it's just savvy marketing, but lo and behold, you can make a good case that Crypto.com Arena has its own name cache outside of just being called by its old name of Staples Arena.
Anytime you write about the Lakers' arena, it's worth pointing out the added weight the arena and the area around it have changed since the death of Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant and his daughter along with seven others in a helicopter crash in 2020. Since then, it's served as the de facto memorial, and a statue of Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, is scheduled to be unveiled on Feb. 8, 2024, before a home game against the Denver Nuggets.
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2. United Center (Chicago Bulls)
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Bottom line: I'm sure there will be a time in the future when going to the United Center won't feel like some sort of pilgrimage in which basketball fans go to worship the memory of Michael Jordan's time with the Chicago Bulls.
Just kidding. That's never gonna go away. This place is dope, and getting a picture next to MJ's statue is on any real basketball fan's bucket list.
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1. Chase Center (Golden State Warriors)
Location: San Francisco, California
Bottom line: This arena is sick, and moving the team's home arena from Oakland back to San Francisco once the Warriors' fortunes turned around in the mid-2010s was a no-brainer.
Cool arena. Cool city. Cool players. What more can you ask for?
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