New York's Madison Square Garden during a Grizzlies-Knicks game

Southwest Division roundtable: Favorite NBA arena

by Jim Eichenhofer

The ballots are in and the preferred Southwest Division venue among our panel was Memphis’ FedEx Forum earlier this month. This time, asked the group to weigh in on the rest of the league’s 24 arenas (among the other 25 franchises, the Lakers and Clippers share Staples Center). There were numerous buildings mentioned, but “The World’s Most Famous Arena” was the only site that received top-choice status from multiple people, with media members from Dallas and Orlando citing the historic facility in the Big Apple. Other “No. 1 picks” included the arenas in Toronto, Indiana, Portland, Los Angeles, Dallas and Charlotte.

What’s your favorite road arena to visit in the rest of the NBA and why?

Mark Followill

Mavericks TV

Madison Square Garden. It is the mecca of basketball and the World’s Most Famous Arena. You truly feel like you are on a stage performing when you are there and that even includes broadcasters, so you can imagine what the players must feel like. The energy of the building, the energy of the city, the organ music, all of it combine to make for an exhilarating experience every time. Dirk always said it was his favorite arena to play and I suspect a lot of players feel that way. I certainly know one broadcaster who views that place as his favorite NBA arena as a broadcaster!

Matt Thomas

Rockets Radio

Radio play-by-play guys don’t get to sit courtside as often as we’d like. So I give bonus points to those cities that allow us to have a great broadcast position. Favorable mentions go to Chicago, Detroit and Phoenix. But to my surprise, Toronto’s Scotiabank Center is my favorite road arena. Toronto is a wonderful city with really nice people. I’ve only called four games there (all courtside) but I feel like all of them could have been NBA Finals previews. The crowd is all in their seats by tip time and are incredibly intense throughout the game. I believe any NBA game and thus my broadcast can be ramped out with a crowd who’s ready to cheer and boo as soon as the ball is thrown in the air for the first time.

Michael Wallace

Grind City Media

I’ve always been fond of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indiana. The location, sightlines, nostalgia, colors, cozy feel inside and on and on and on. That place feels like it was made for basketball and only basketball. There’s not a bad or obstructed seat in the entire house. And I’ve walked around that place enough to see every vantage point over the years. There’s always a clean and pristine vibe to the place. And it gets absolutely nuts there when the Pacers are rolling. The media relations team under longtime exec David Benner makes sure your every media need is met. And there’s always a festive environment just outside the doors once the game ends and the action spills out into downtown Indy. For 20-year-old arenas, it remains a crown jewel.

Jim Eichenhofer

It’s a five-hour flight from Louisiana, but I’ve always enjoyed going to Portland’s Moda Center for a variety of reasons. Atmosphere-wise, it feels very old school, with fans who are consistently into the actual basketball game and tend to arrive early. The whole setup just feels cozier than most places, with an arena staff I find to be extremely friendly and helpful. Among the newer venues, Orlando always impresses me with just how beautiful that building is, as well as how clean it’s kept – Amway Center still feels like it just opened, even though its first season was 2010-11. Detroit, Milwaukee and Sacramento also boast gorgeous new arenas, but we must dock the Bucks points for putting their media seating in a distant location, prompting me to want to sharpen my contact lenses upon returning home to Louisiana.

Michael C. Wright

The Staples Center in Los Angeles and the only reason for me is the vastly different atmospheres in the same arena for Lakers and Clippers games. On one trip in LA, I covered a Clippers game earlier in the day, and as I was finishing up my work, they were transforming the arena for a Lakers game that was tipping off later that night. Obviously, I’ve noticed the different in-game atmospheres for those teams over the years, but I had never experienced it all in the same day. With the Clippers, you’ve got a more fun, raucous environment. Then, when the Lakers hit the floor, they turn down the lights, the celebrities mill about and the experience is more subdued and “classic” if that makes any sense. During that LA trip, I also remember recording a podcast in between those Clippers and Lakers games. In walks JJ Redick, then a Clipper. He snatches the mic and highjacks the podcast for a couple of minutes while we all laugh. Fun times.

Around the NBA

Marc D’Amico

I’ve always said that my favorite road arena is American Airlines Center in Dallas. There’s something about the ambiance in that building that has always made me feel great: from the colors, to the video board, to the architectural design, to the crowd and the atmosphere, everything just makes me feel comfortable. You know how some NBA players have one arena in which they just always seem to play at their highest level? This would be it for me. Think MJ at MSG, but now it’s MD at AAC.

Dan Savage

As someone who grew up in New Jersey and has fond memories of taking train rides into Madison Square Garden as a kid, I may have some bias here. But every time I work a game and step on the floor of MSG, I’m reminded that I’m living out a childhood dream. Although it’s definitely not the best arena in terms of a pure work standpoint (media seating is up higher than some other spots), the history there puts it at another level. From an underrated standpoint, I want to give Detroit a shoutout. It’s currently atop the league in my personal media meal power rankings.

Kyle Ratke

I really like the media seating in Charlotte. The fact that we are in the middle of the court is pretty rare for media seating. Normally we get stuck in the corner, and while that’s fine, sometimes you can’t see exactly what’s happening on the other side of the court.

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