Basketball is (maybe, hopefully) on the horizon. To help reintegrate us to a life of Giannis hammer dunks, James Harden dribbling for 24 seconds, and 76ers fans yelling at you for some reason, we’re rolling out top-five rankings in 20 different categories. All rankings were voted on by The Ringer staff unless noted.
Below, our top five courts in the NBA, beginning with a tie and ending on a classic. (All court designs via Reddit.)
5. Toronto Raptors/Philadelphia 76ers (tie)
These designs are from different eras (the Raptors court features a ’90s throwback, while the Sixers’ bell hails from the team’s 1976 bicentennial celebration), but recency bias isn’t what makes Toronto’s slightly better. When it comes to a tiebreaker, you’re just not going to beat a dribbling dinosaur with purple-filled arcs and tracks crossing the court.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis also brought back a court from the ’90s this season. Like Miami’s Vice court, its color scheme, teal and red, is an unusual choice among NBA teams. The actual grizzly bear on this design never receives enough credit, either, for being a legitimately scary mascot (that is, among the cartoon versions—I’ll never be more terrified of any NBA symbol than I was with New Orleans’s King Cake Baby). It’s a rare sight today: the Bull, while a potentially deadly animal, is just a head; I feel certain I could outrun a decapitated head. The Hawk, also dangerous, resembles a sort of diseased reverse-Pac-Man moments after spitting out food it was choking on.
Even the newer Grizzly at the center of the team’s modern court is frightening. It’s a little dead in the eyes—the lights are on, but no one’s home—like it has no fear of repercussion. Kind of like Ja Morant!
3. Utah Jazz
At the center of Utah’s throwback is its iconic blue and purple logo. The word “Jazz” splits the court; above it are mountains and below, the bottom half of a basketball. Its frigid appearance makes you forget it actually says Jazz, an infamously ill-fitting team name. So not only does it look cool, but it short-circuits your ability to read.
2. Miami Heat
Miami’s recent “Vice” theme is aesthetically flawless, from the cursive to the colors (which the marketing team calls “laser fuchsia and blue gale,” a tad supercilious but we’ll let it fly). The best part of looking at the court, however, is knowing its true inspiration. “The name ‘Vice’ isn’t necessarily a nod to the TV program,” said Michael McCullough, the Heat’s chief marketing officer, when the motif was announced in 2018, “because Miami has a lot of different things that you might call vices.” Many different things indeed! Some liquor-based, some powdery, some in dark and sweaty nightclubs with enough Pitbull to soak through the subconscious. Dale. Drawing inspiration from vices is as Miami as it gets.
1. Boston Celtics
Well, green is a nice color. (This isn’t the first time I’ve questioned my colleagues’ taste this week.) When pitted against the others on this list, it’s impossible to ignore that the Celtics’ court is mostly what it has always been. I’ll admit that there’s nothing wrong with a classic design when it’s done right; for example, however much I’d like to change the success of Alabama’s football team, their uniforms, colors, and logos should remain the same. (Many of the most despised teams are also those with definitive designs, like the Cowboys and the Yankees.) And, like I said, green is a nice color.