It's difficult to build an NBA arena that stands out from the pack.
In sharp contrast to the sport of baseball — which enables architects to create quirky outfield dimensions and venues that sometimes employ retractable roofs — basketball arenas are inherently similar. Basketball courts always employ the same dimensions, and the arenas themselves always are closed to the elements. Designers also have to squeeze in a lot of functionality into a small land area.
But these arenas are special.
We're unveiling our picks for the NBA's top 10 venues.
To arrive at these rankings, we took into account an arena's location, the atmosphere created by the home team's fans, the aesthetics of the exterior, the aesthetics of the interior, its fan-friendliness and its place in the game's history.
This is a wildly subjective list. Hopefully, this will spark some serious debate. Disagree with a ranking? Then chime in with your opinion by writing in the comments field below.
Madison Square Garden
Arena ranking: 1st
Home of: New York Knicks
Location: New York City
Capacity for pro basketball: 19,763
First NBA regular-season game: Feb. 14, 1968
Positives: Madison Square Garden's history is unparalleled among NBA arenas. It was the site of injured Willis Reed's famous entrance before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier staged one of their three epic bouts there. Reggie Miller led a mammoth Indiana Pacers comeback in the final seconds of Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals there. . . . It's amazing how antiquated the Garden is. The purple and teal seats are flat-out ugly. There are luxury suites, but they're located at the very top of the upper deck. The concourses are anything but fancy. A Knicks-Magic game was postponed last season when some workers knocked debris loose from above the ceiling, igniting fears that asbestos had spread into the seating bowl. . . . All that said, that dinginess ensures that the game itself is the focus at the Garden. So, in a strange way, that's a positive. . . . The suspended ceiling arguably is the most distinctive architectural element at any NBA arena. . . . The Garden is a good place to people-watch. Spike Lee is just one of the stars who regularly go to Knicks games. . . . The arena sits atop New York's Penn Station, so the venue is easily accessible by subway and by rail.
Negatives: As noted above, this is a dingy arena. . . . And for as much good press as the Garden receives for its history, it's critical to remember that the current arena is the fourth Madison Square Garden and the third site for the arena.
Overall: To be sure, this is a subjective analysis. If you don't like New York as a city, you won't like the dingy Garden. If you prefer an arena that boasts more technology, you'll be happier in Amway Center in Orlando or the American Airlines Center in Dallas. That said, the Garden is undergoing a major renovation. Here's hoping that it doesn't lose too much of its old feel.
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