While spectators ultimately attend live sport to witness the excitement, action, and drama unfold before them, there’s no denying that the venue can have a huge impact on the match-going experience. It’s as integral in the NBA as it is in any sport, if not more so, because the iconic arenas that host games every week were crucial to the league’s success in its early years and they gave it the platform to become the global entity it is today.
Although attempts at professional basketball leagues had begun springing up in the 1920s, they were disorganised and disparate, frequently folding as quickly as they’d emerged. It was not until 1946 that Walter Brown, owner of the Boston Garden Arena, came to the realisation that major venues could accommodate basketball games on nights when they were not being used to stage ice hockey.
The Basketball Association of America was born; it was the first organised, widespread attempt at playing basketball professionally at significant venues in major cities around the United States, and in 1949 it was renamed the National Basketball Association following a merger with the National Basketball League.
By concentrating the professional game at top venues in large cities, the NBA made basketball accessible to the masses in a way it had not been previously, and with that the league established a foothold in the American consciousness. Today, there are 30 NBA teams facing off each week in 29 arenas around the United States and Canada, so here’s a look at some of the best. If you want to buy tickets and get the best 2023 NBA tickets prices, you can do so at Koobit.com.
Madison Square Garden, New York
Home team: New York Knicks
Perhaps the most iconic arena not just in NBA but the world, Madison Square Garden has been entertaining spectators since 1968. Indeed, its nickname is “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” and it’s hard to argue.
MSG is the home of the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers, and some of the biggest fights in boxing history have also been staged there, from Muhammad Ali’s first clash with Joe Frazier to Andy Ruiz’s stunning upset of Anthony Joshua on the latter’s US debut.
Home team: Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers
Formerly known as the Staples Center, the Crypto.com arena is the only stadium in the NBA shared by 2 top-flight teams, although the Los Angeles Clippers have long lived in the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours, the Lakers.
Indeed, the Lakers have won 6 NBA Championships since moving into the arena in 1999, the first 5 of which were delivered by the late, great Kobe Bryant – it’s little wonder the stadium is affectionately known as “The House That Kobe Built.”
Moda Center, Portland
Home team: Portland Trail Blazers
The Moda Center, home to the Portland Trail Blazers, is proof that looks can be deceiving. Although it was formerly known as the Rose Garden, the stadium isn’t known for its beautiful aesthetic. In fact, it was once named 1 of the 5 ugliest buildings in Portland!
However, if you’re in town to watch a Trail Blazers game, you’re in for a treat. The Moda Center’s ceiling boasts a unique feature known as the “acoustical cloud,” a set of 160 rotating acoustic panels that absorb and reflect sound to create some of the best noise you’ll find anywhere in the NBA.
Golden 1 Center, Sacramento
Home team: Sacramento Kings
Having opened in 2016, the Golden 1 Center is among the newest arenas to grace the NBA, and as you’d expect from an ultra-modern stadium, it’s state of the art. The venue – which is the first in the world to be completely solar-powered – has been described as the “most technologically advanced arena in the world” and the “highest-tech stadium in sports.”
With huge 4K screens, dazzling light displays, and ultra-fast WiFi connections throughout the arena, Golden 1 Center delivers a fantastic experience for fans, and its construction has also helped revitalise downtown Sacramento.
Paycom Center, Oklahoma
Home team: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Paycom Center may be the NBA’s smallest venue by square feet, but you wouldn’t know it by the noise! Befitting the home of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the upper level of the arena is known as “Loud City,” where fans can not only enjoy a great view of the basketball but also a pulsating and raucous atmosphere.
The arena first opened in 2002, with the Thunder taking residence in 2008. From 2005-2007, it housed the New Orleans Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans), after their arena sustained extensive damage due to Hurricane Katrina.
United Center, Chicago
Home team: Chicago Bulls
Although the Chicago Bulls have not had as much success in recent years, they’re one of the NBA’s most iconic teams for a reason. It was at the United Center that the legendary Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen led the Bulls to an incredible 3 consecutive NBA Championships from 1996 to 1998, cementing the venue into NBA folklore almost as much as the team itself.
What’s more is also the NBA’s largest arena both in terms of capacity and square footage; it can seat up to 20,917 spectators, although with standing room it has room for more than 23,000!