NBA arenas: The good, the bad and the ugly

Which cities have basketball cathedrals? Who plays in the dumps? Kevin Ding ranks 'em.

The Lakers lost Tuesday night in Indiana, but it wasn't a completely ugly loss… because it came at Conseco Fieldhouse – the prettiest arena in the NBA.

With an old-school, brick-heavy design yet a clean, modern feel, Conseco is the perfect place for basketball in a state rich in hoops tradition.

(Beyond that, there's nothing good to say about India-no-place… except that it's the world headquarters for Steak 'n' Shake, which I'm telling you flat-out is better than In-n-Out Burger. Yes, I know that's blasphemy to some of you.)

From Conseco as the best to another one the Lakers have used for a recent NBA Finals as the worst, check out this review of the NBA's arenas. To see photos of the five best and five worst arenas, click on "MORE PHOTOS" to the right.

1. Conseco Fieldhouse, Indiana: Borrowing from old-time baseball with a hand-tiled out-of-town scoreboard instead of an electronic one, this quaintly feels more like a gym than an arena.

2. Rose Garden, Portland: It's unfathomable that this arena is 13 years old; it manages to feel cutting edge yet cozy.

3. Madison Square Garden, New York: Some say it's a dump. Hey, it's a classy dump.

4. EnergySolutions Arena, Utah: Gotta love a relatively new place that puts its fans right on top of the opposing players.

5. Air Canada Centre, Toronto: Beautifully done. And for all that the Maple Leafs dominate here, it doesn't even smell like hockey (the stench of stale perspiration, by the way).

6. American Airlines Center, Dallas: Very cool Texas-themed architecture on the outside, and inside Mark Cuban sits on the baseline next to the Mavs' bench and triggers replays on the overhead monitor with a wave like a king beckoning to his subjects.

7. TD Banknorth Garden, Boston: It's not the original Boston Garden, but inside it all feels legit – with the clearest overhead monitor ever built.

8. Staples Center, Los Angeles: Doesn't try to be anything but what it is … an entertainment haven.

9. Oracle Arena, Golden State: The kid in me who loved seeing Busch Stadium right there while driving on the freeway in St. Louis loves how this place is right off I-880, and it definitely has character.

10. Pepsi Center, Denver: Not quite as cool as Coors Field down the street, but a solid arena in every way. Now if they could just move the airport closer to downtown …

11. Toyota Center, Houston: There's a rocket built into the bottom of the overhead scoreboard that comes out to simulate a takeoff during pregame introductions.

12. American Airlines Arena, Miami: It fits the superficial South Florida scene perfectly, which isn't saying that much, but at least its bayside instead of in the 'hood like old Miami Arena.

13. US Airways Center, Phoenix: Chase Field next door is a reminder that this place isn't new anymore, but it sure hasn't gotten old.

14. United Center, Chicago: The House that Jordan Built feels comparably cavernous to Staples, but without the pizzazz.

15. Arco Arena, Sacramento: Similar to an old college arena with a complete lack of luxury, it has fan-friendly qualities but a ton of functionality problems.

16. Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte: This new arena in a traditional basketball region for the NBA's newest team should've been as cool as Conseco, but it's not even close.

17. FedEx Forum, Memphis: Give me an aging Pyramid over this ho-hum joint that looks just like the Charlotte arena.

18. Ford Center, Oklahoma City: Looks just like the Charlotte and Memphis arenas.

19. AT&T Center, San Antonio: Congratulations on successfully building a new arena to look like a clean barn – the fans who come for the rodeos must be thrilled – but there's nothing special here.

20. Bradley Center, Milwaukee: The Bradley Center, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, feels like Milwaukee in 1988. Not an altogether good thing.

21. Wachovia Center, Philadelphia: Elton Brand is just 5-4 here this season. It's no Cameron Indoor Stadium, apparently.

22. Philips Arena, Atlanta: Weird stuff here with the luxury suites all stacked on one side of the court, so it's impossible to unify the fans.

23. Target Center, Minnesota: Kudos for attaching it to the downtown mall so that fans (and reporters) never have to venture out into the cold, but the sightlines are terrible.

24. Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland: The team should play its home games in its awesome Cleveland Clinics Courts practice facility out in the 'burbs instead of this nondescript blob downtown.

25. Verizon Center, Washington: Boring, boring, boring. No wonder Gilbert Arenas goes to such lengths to entertain himself.

26. New Orleans Arena, New Orleans: Phil Jackson is right. Sorry, but this city doesn't merit a team.

27. Izod Center, New Jersey: Having to play at least one season in this dump – voted the worst NBA arena by USA Today a few years back – before moving to Brooklyn might be enough to keep LeBron James from coming in 2010.

28. Amway Arena, Orlando: Dwight Howard could take a running start from the parking lot and knock over this entire tiny building.

29. The Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit: Too dark, feels bigger than it is, way out in the middle of nowhere, ugly and dirty. Otherwise, it's a palace!