The inspiration for this blog comes from the LA Times' J.A. Adande, who recently ranked NBA cities on his blog. I'm no where near as cool as J.A., and we come from different sides of the country with different ethnic backgrounds so we surely have different views. However, since J.A. is not currently an NBA beat writer and doesn't do all the cities every year, I feel I can give a more updated opinion.
I might cover more regular season road games than any other NBA beat writer, I did 40 in my first year, 39 last year and 38 of the road games this season. Not including pre- and postseason, either, which added 13 road games this season. Most beat writers take 5-10 road games off. So here is my list. Cleveland excluded:
1. San Antonio. A great place to spend a couple days. The Riverwalk is nice, relaxing and festive. No, the water isn't clean nor is it anything like a genuine river, but it is still totally cool.
2. Miami. I don't go to clubs, but the weather is always beautiful and so are the people. Interesting, the Heat's arena is on Biscayune Blvd. next to a nice outdoor mall and the cruise ship terminal and the bridge to South Beach. Look down that street out over the water and it seems like heaven on earth. Go two blocks inland, one after dark, and it feels like a third-world nation.
3. Seattle. Great downtown area, great food, good people. It might be the worst arena in the NBA, though.
4. Milwaukee. That's right, I said Milwaukee. It is a rust belt town, sure, but this place knows what it is. They have traditions and no qualms and I like it. Easy to move around, easy to understand, easy to relate. I'd move there tomorrow.
5. Portland. It feels like a Midwest city on the West Coast. There's a small yet beautiful downtown. It's a walking city with well-defined districts plus it is visually striking. Take a 20-minute drive and you're in the Columbia River gorge. Wow!
6. Minneapolis. This might be the best city in America, just nobody knows it because it gets so cold. The downtown is vibrant and smart, it can move all indoors at a moment's notice. You can breeze from block to block without going outside but if the whether is nice the streets are filled with outdoor shops and sights.
7. Phoenix. Everyone in Phoenix seems to be in a good mood. If you lived in that weather, wouldn't you? Plus the airport is practically in downtown and so is the arena.
8. Washington. New arena is located near hotels and good restaurants and the public transit system is clean, safe and goes everywhere. You can get anything you want in Washington and not feel like you need four showers a day.
9. Atlanta. Nightlife lovers will rate it way higher, probably in the top 3 for players. What I like about it are the artful suburbs, where the teams stay when the come to town. Especially Buckhead.
10. San Francisco. Where I will always stay from now on when the team is in Oakland. The most beautiful city I've ever been to.
11. Denver. Another cold-weather city? Yep. Scenic sure, but also chock full of good restaurants and everything there feels new. It is exploding in population and it becomes more cosmopolitan every time I go.
12. Boston. Great yet rusty public transit system makes you forget about the traffic. Little Italy is to die for, chock full of the best places. It's dirty and old but still charming to me.
13. Dallas. Under-rated town. It sprawls and it takes like an hour to get off the airport grounds, but you can have a fun time in downtown any night of the week and the arena is one of the NBA's best.
14. Los Angeles. Why so low? Traffic. Arena is downtown but nothing else is, bad situation. No way I'm chic enough to rank it higher on my list.
15. Chicago. Takes forever to get in from the airport, where there are always delays. Arena is in the middle of a questionable neighborhood with nothing around it and the traffic is tough. Magnificent Mile doesn't overcome it. Not big on the Chicago Pizza, either.
16. Toronto. Lots of writers have this in their top 5. I guess it is a cool city, but they don't seem to get that it is cold there. Minneapolis and Milwaukee have the same climate but actually take provisions for it. The hockey Hall of Fame does nothing for me. Plus the whole customs thing is a drag.
17. Salt Lake City. Now, this city is in the Rockies. Denver is in the Great Plains, you can just see the mountains. Feels like it is the size of Akron. Small and beautiful, even if everything is closed by 9.
18. Charlotte. New downtown arena is nice, city is clean and airy. Not a bad way to spend a couple days.
19. Orlando. Bonus points for the weather. But I don't care about the attractions and the entire place feels like one enormous strip mall. Usually, though I have fun playing mini-golf.
20. Indianapolis. Branson Wright calls it India-no-place. But the downtown area has lots of restaurants and places to go and the arena might be the best in the league. Plus there's never traffic issues.
21. Oklahoma City. It's an outpost to be sure, still feels like a minor league city. But the arena is grand and nearby Bricktown, albeit a cheap rip off of the Riverwalk, is a nice place to spend an evening.
22. New Orleans. I know many people loved it there, but I could not get over how dirty it was. I'm not ripping it, I'm just saying it wasn't the greatest place for my tastes. As I've written before on the this blog, before Katrina it felt like a tattered and oppressively muggy version of a much more charming Montreal. Hopefully some day I'll be back.
23. New York. Yep, it is really this low to me. I don't share the love of the Big Apple. Nothing is easy there, everything takes extra time and extra effort and virtually no one cares who they step on. I'm on the company dime, but the expense of things still bothers me especially for what you honestly get in return. Again, I'm not big on nightlife. I've been to Broadway shows, great restaurants, etc., etc., the place does not grow on me. I'm considered a hick from flyover country anyway and so they really don't care.
24. Philadelphia. Nice downtown because it is old and has unique landmarks. I like cheesesteaks. It is a good sports town. I've got nothing else really to say.
25. Houston. Crazy sprawling city with an airport I positively loathe even though I'm there 12-15 times a year due to my obsession with Continental Airlines. It seems like it takes hours to go anywhere and it feels like Orlando west.
26. Sacramento. Nothing bad about it, just nothing much there. This event, of course, hurt it in the standings.
27. Detroit. Only because getting to Auburn Hills is such a pain, this must have been what it was like when the Cavs played in Richfield. Nice arena, but by the time you get there you are in a bad mood.
28. Memphis. Graceland is in a bad neighborhood. Beale Street way overrated. Not a big fan of bar-b-que. And the string is out.
29. New Jersey. Worst trip in the league, in my opinion of course. Arena is in the middle of a smelly swamp. Airport is in the middle of a smelly swarm surrounded by gutted buildings. Nothing in between. If you do take Route 3 or Route 17 to find some life, sometimes it feels like you can't turn left for 10 miles at a time. I love ya Tony Soprano, but you cannot be serious.