Ranking all 29 NBA arenas on size, fan satisfaction and historical importance

Is Madison Square Garden the best arena in the NBA? Photo by The Motley Fool.

The NBA has returned, and returned with a bang. 

‘Spida’ Donovan Mitchell’s 57 point haul. Miami, Boston and the Raptors got their proverbial brushes out in the first round. Luka Doncic bagged an unprecedented triple double. But it’s all been inside the Wide World of Sport Complex in Orlando. 

The coronavirus crisis has robbed fans of a chance to see their teams in the comfort of their own home arenas, in what has been a fantastic postseason thus far.

We ranked the arenas that are worth your visit on the basis of size, age, previous fan satisfaction, historical importance and the quality of the basketball in the most recent regular season. 

29th- Target Center (Minnesota Timberwolves)

Opened: 1990

Ranked flat last across the NBA is the Timberwolves’ Target Center. Recent polling put the midwestern outfit worst in the division for fan satisfaction, based on reviews on Google. It seats over 19,000 and is the second oldest arena played in today, but not a lot has gone down at the Target Center since the days of Thibodeau and Butler.

One post season finish in 15 years and an older arena doesn’t have much pull for a modern fan, most evident in their attendance figures, where again the Timberwolves hold the wooden spoon. 

28th- Smoothie King Center (New Orleans Pelicans)

Opened: 1999


Not even the draw of rookie prospect Zion Williamson can save the Pelicans. The figures don’t read well for the New Orleans faithful, who are statistically not far from the Timberwolves according to our methodology.

A lack of historical impact combined with the smallest arena in basketball currently sees the Pelicans fall into the lower quartile of attendance in the league. As one of the newest franchises, benefit of the doubt could be awarded, but their regular season record is startlingly good for a franchise in its relative infancy (7 appearances in 17 seasons). Being invited to compete in the bubble suggests the potential for an upturn in fortune led by a future superstar in Williamson. 

27th- State Farm Arena (Atlanta Hawks)

Opened: 1999

State Farm Arena was one of many in a crop of new courts that were opened in 1999. The goings on there however just haven’t matched up to the exploits at other arenas like the Staples Center from the Class of ‘99.

Atlanta themselves had a golden period of ten years between 2007 and 2017 of consecutive postseason appearances, including 60 wins in 2014/15, but couldn’t venture past the conference semifinals.

The Hawks were in the bottom half of the attendance table at the height of their playoff years, and have slipped to 25th currently while finishing 14th in the Eastern Conference. A recent cash injection into the venue worth up to $193 million will be the first of many steps to persuade the Atlanta faithful that the good times are only around the corner.

26th- Barclays Center (Brooklyn Nets)

Opened: 2012

Transition seems to be the key for the occupants of the Barclays Center. The Brooklyn Nets recent acquisitions of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are yet to be fully tested out on the court due to injuries, but could still be a serious threat next term to the current Milwaukee monopoly on the east.

So where does it go wrong? The modern and yet precipitous design is seen as a minor flaw, along with the notoriously expensive tickets to see the Nets take to the court. All signs point to another shift up the league table in years to come, as the Nets look to build on their already impressive five playoff appearances since relocating across the Hudson River. 

25th- Golden 1 Center (Sacramento Kings)

Opened: 2016

The Golden 1 is another ultra modern arena that unfortunately has its downfall in the concession charges.

The Kings are a long suffering crowd, and despite a 14 season consecutive run without a playoff appearance the Californian outfit rank a modest 20th in the attendance rankings this season. The Kings’ new home can also only hold 17,608, degrading the Kings position in the overall rankings significantly.

24th- Spectrum Center (Charlotte Hornets)

Opened: 2005

A few would contest the Hornets could have been placed lower.

The Michael Jordan-owned franchise have seldom threatened the league in any capacity since the early 2000s, and crowd attendance would echo the sentiment. The Hornets are 400 people shy in their average attendance of the lowly Timberwolves for this season. The town is famed for the hosting of big college basketball games over the years, but not necessarily their atmosphere.

23rd- FedEx Forum (Memphis Grizzlies)

Opened: 2004

The intimacy of the Forum is said to be one of it’s main attractions, with the 18,000 seater not offering a bad seat in the house.

Missing out on the playoffs this term to a determined Trail Blazers team will be disappointing yet no less encouraging, after finishing in the bottom five of the Western Conference in the two previous consecutive years. The Grizzlies will look to notch another playoff appearance (10 since 2004) before a rumoured possible move for the franchise out of Tennessee. 

22nd- Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Indiana Pacers)

Opened:1999

The Pacers’ home sits fourth both in fan satisfaction and in the Eastern Conference this campaign.

The location in the city’s centre makes the arena a hub of activity, neighboured by various bars and restaurants. The size of the arena, ranked 25th, has the potential of an increase with a penned $360 million renovation in the coming years. 

21st- Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Opened: 1994

The post- LeBron/Kyrie era has hit the Ohio outfit hard. The Cavaliers finished as the basement franchise in the east this season, having finished 14th in 2018/19.

Where the Cavs take to the court however is the second largest arena in the NBA and is able to house over 20,000 match-goers, despite falling attendance since the mid to late 2010’s pinnacle. The recent renovation enabled the franchise to play host in a ‘world class sports and entertainment showplace’, despite the same being unable to be replicated on matchdays.

20th- Capital One Arena (Washington Wizards)

Opened: 1997

The Wizards can too boast a 20,000+ seater arena, but are unable to fill it fully regularly.

They average around a poor 80% capacity for home ties, possibly unsurprising for a team now missing out on the playoffs for two consecutive seasons. The large video board is an attractive feature for the Wizards but the Capital One is fast becoming a more dated venue in a league dominated by newer stadiums and big money renovations.

19th- Little Caesar’s Arena (Detroit Pistons)

Opened: 2017

Little Caesar’s makes up for the poor ball game on show with its own built in mall-style complex surrounding the arena in downtown Detroit. Opened in 2017, it is one of only five arenas in the league to hold 20,000 people or over.

It’s a shame it’s not being put to good use.

A league low of 75% average home attendance for this season would imply that the fans can be a fickle bunch, after what was an impressive 26-15 home record the season before last.

18th- Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia 76ers)

Opened: 1996

Rebuild is the word going around Philly in recent years. The recent sweep of the Pennsylvania side by their east coast counterparts, the Boston Celtics, may just mark an end to that rebuild era with rumours of stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (when fit) making their move away.

The Wells Fargo launched a ‘Transformation 2020’ initiative to renovate the arena, but reports are suggesting that the 76ers could pack their bags after their lease ends in 2031. Fan satisfaction puts the side a lowly 22nd in comparison to the high flying on-court exploits of the past few seasons, notwithstanding overlooking the rest of the league in the attendance charts from the regular season.

17th- Vivint Smart Home Arena (Utah Jazz)

Opened: 1991

Another arena. Another facelift! $125 million was put into Utah Jazz’s home back in 2016, with construction complete in 2017.

The new look Vivint Smart Home has coincided with a rise in stock of the Jazz, orientated around young stars such as Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell under the leadership of head coach Quin Snyder. The franchise has had it’s highlights in the venue, including two unsuccessful finals appearances in the late nineties against the Chicago Bulls

16th- Amway Center (Orlando Magic)

Opened: 2010

The Amway Center is one of the best loved venues in the league for fans, making the top ten in fan satisfaction along with being rated as the best in show for the 2018/19 season.

It’s just a shame that the hoops haven’t been quite up to scratch over the last decade. A dip in expectation from 2012 to 2018 meant the Magic have only seen postseason basketball at the Amway four times. 

15th- Pepsi Center (Denver Nuggets)

Opened: 1999

The Nuggets seem to be striking a winning formula up in Colorado. The ease of which to get in and out of the 19,000 seater makes it yet another well favoured trip for away fans.

The roster, including Nikola Jokic, has seen back to back finishes in the top three of the Western Conference. Denver will be aiming to better last season’s semi final exit, but will have to overcome the Los Angeles Clippers.

14th- Toyota Center (Houston Rockets)

Opened: 2003

The Rockets have one of the league’s ultimate duos in former Oklahoma City Thunder guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook, an embarrassment of talent as they look to banish the ghost of the absentee Golden State Warriors.

The Toyota Center, which sits almost 10 meters below street level, seats 18,000 and ranks an unassuming 12th in the fan satisfaction polling. 

13th- Talking Stick Resort Arena (Phoenix Suns)

Opened: 1992

Looking forwards instead of delving on the past will have to be the only way for the Phoenix Suns.

The past decade has brought NO playoff appearances, despite the Arizona side being in the mix this term after being invited to compete in the Orlando bubble. Young guard Devin Booker looks to be the future of the franchise, looking to replicate the brilliant first two decades the Suns had under their belt after forming. 

12th- Fiserv Forum (Milwaukee Bucks)

Opened: 2018

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have done their talking on the court of late with consecutive conference 1st seed finishes. The Fiserv, which has only seen one full season played in it, opened in 2018 and has harmonized with the Bucks’ rise to potential championship material.

The strong core of Wisconsin fans means they regularly sell out the second smallest NBA arena. Generally favourable reviews of the new stadium along with Milwaukee building upon their recent success could allow for movement upwards in years to come. 

11th- Chase Center (Golden State Warriors)

Opened: 2019

The Chase Center replaced what was at the time one of basketball’s oldest arenas in the Oakland Arena as the home of the Golden State Warriors in 2019.

The new base for the Warriors missed out on a triumphant decade, and the absence of the likes of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson through injury has meant it has been a rotten inaugural season. Steve Kerr will be hoping to see the success continue upon the return of key stars to build a lasting impression on the new stadium, and challenge the LA monopoly in the west. 

10th- Moda Center (Portland Trail Blazers)

Opened: 1995

The Trail Blazers have only missed out on two of the last twelve postseason runs. Led by Damian Lillard, they took on the might of the LA Lakers in the first round in what many billed as a straight sweep for LeBron and co. Portland’s first game win was where the hype train stopped unfortunately, with the Pacific side without the aforementioned talisman through a knee injury.

The Moda Center’s steep build and frame however is said to not make for a comfortable viewing experience for fans trying to get a peak at Lillard, CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony.

9th- AT&T Center (San Antonio Spurs)

Opened: 2002

This is the first time in 23 years (yes, 23) that the Spurs have missed out under the playoffs. The astounding consistency seems to be coming to an end with an 11th placed conference finish and whispers of legendary coach Gregg Popovich heading for the door.

The AT&T has seen many of the Texas side’s glory years from the early 2000’s onwards, namely four championships, the first of which coming in the arena’s maiden season. Cheap concessions are a draw for the fans, and place a respectable 12th overall for fan attendance. 

8th- Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City Thunder)

Opened: 2002

The relocation of the franchise from Seattle in 2008 would garner thoughts of possibly an arena without an aura or much of a fan presence. The opposite is true. Selling out the home arena fully throughout 2020 has earned much respect in the eyes of other fans.

It’s not just the fans who are catching attention, the team is a permanent postseason fixture. 

7th- Scotiabank Arena (Toronto Raptors)

Opened: 1999

The home of the Raptors is said to be an innovator for modern basketball stadia, including bringing in ground floor luxury suites.

Recently renamed from the Air Canada Centre, the arena saw Kawhi Leonard’s last gasp game 7 clutch shot against the 76er’s last year, along with the young franchise’s first championship. The departure of Leonard has shown little signs of wear on the squad, reaching the semi finals this year in a sweep of the Brooklyn Nets. With Coach of the Year Nick Nurse at the helm, the Canadians don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. 

6th- American Airlines Center (Dallas Mavericks)

Opened: 2001

The American Airlines Center has picked up numerous accolades regarding it being one of the busiest venues in world sport over the last ten years.

The Mavericks are only beaten by the Sixers in regards to being the best supported team in the league, averaging over 20,000 matchgoers every home fixture. Previous Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic has switched fortunes of his side, reaching the playoffs for the first time in four years. One to watch for the future in terms of watching potential championship basketball, with a future MVP in the ranks in the aforementioned Slovenian.

5th- American Airlines Arena (Miami Heat)

Opened: 1999

The spectacle that is the American Airlines Arena, seating 21,000, is seeing the dawn of a new era. Jimmy Butler and co. have led the Heat beyond the first round of the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

The South Beach franchise has seen three championships come home since taking up residency 21 years ago. The arena also has a nightclub for fans post-game to mingle and celebrate. What’s cooler than that? 

4th- United Center (Chicago Bulls)

Opened: 1994

THE biggest stadium in the league plays host to a whopping 23,000 spectators, including standing. Some of the game’s greatest have come here to don the famous red jersey. Jordan. Pippen. Rose. Rodman. Three of which brought home an unprecedented three-peat to the Windy City.

It can also boast an incredible 8,660 square foot score board.  The catch? The ball played here. The famous side have only reached the postseason in one of their last five attempts. The United Center is a must for those historical NBA connoisseurs. 

3rd- Madison Square Garden (New York Knicks)

Opened: 1968

Once hailed as the ‘mecca of basketball’ by His Airness Michael Jordan, this arena’s cultural significance goes beyond that of the game.

The Garden is a world famous concert venue and plays host to teams from other sports such as the New York Rangers. The Knicks are backed by a die-hard core of fans that put other poor performing sides to shame. The Manhattan based side sneaked into the top ten average home crowds in the league this season, despite finishing 12th in the east. The downside comes of course with the team in question, with the franchise seen across the league as a dormant giant held at the behest of owner James Dolan. 

2nd- TD Garden (Boston Celtics)

Opened: 1995

The Celtics’ home base only falls out of the top ten in any of our criteria when talking about stadium size. Nevertheless, the average attendance spilled over capacity for this season for the 18,000 seater. Much history was made in the old Boston Garden, but there has the potential to be more created with young coach Brad Stevens and co.

The side is looking to build on the 2008 Championship that was won in TD with a young talented roster of Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart, having already swept the Philadelphia 76ers. 

1st- Staples Center (LA Clippers, LA Lakers)

Opened: 1999

The LA ground is now most likely going to be the hub for Finals basketball for a while now. Both the Clippers and Lakers swap from game to game as to who is the favourites for the Larry O’Brien trophy in October, with the silverware having already visited the Center five times over the last twenty years.

Staples Center comes out on top.

The arena attracts a host of A-List talent on courtside every game, having both of their franchises in the top ten for attendance, while fan satisfaction is a close second behind the Garden.

Make no mistake about it, LA is back on the basketball map. 

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