NBA Arena Review: The Staples Center

Staples Center - Home of the Lakers and Clippers

Background on the Staples Center

The Staples Center is home to the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. Arguably one of the best stadiums in the NBA, the arena opened in 1999 replacing the old homes of the Lakers (Great Western Forum) and Clippers (Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena).  In addition to NBA basketball the Staples Center also hosts the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL .

In the Staples Center’s short history, they already hosted seven NBA Finals and two NBA All-Star games. The Lakers have won five championships (00, 01, 02, 09, 10) in that time span. The Clippers, historically the punching bag of the NBA, are currently experiencing their best seasons as a franchise while playing their games at the Staples Center. In this short amount of time the Staples Center has seen its share of iconic NBA moments including:

Kobe to Shaq alley oop during the 2000 playoffs

Robert Horry’s Game Winner against the Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals

Kobe’s 81 point game in 2006

The Staples Center is the only arena in the NBA to host two teams. In many respects the arena is home to the Lakers while the Clippers almost feel as a secondary tenant. A new NFL stadium that will host the Rams and Chargers is currently under development in Inglewood. Because of this new development site, there are talks about the Clippers moving into a new stadium of their own. However, the Clippers’ lease with the Staples Center runs through 2024.

Staples Center Review

*Note – While location and amenities ratings will remain the same, David will talk about the differences in fan experience and aesthetics for the setups of the Clippers and Lakers.

Staples Center LA Live

Location

David: Making its home in downtown Los Angeles, the Staples Center is the crown jewel of the entertainment complex known as LA Live.  In addition to the arena, LA Live has the Microsoft Theater (live music/theater venue), the Grammy Museum, ESPN studios, ESPN Zone, a movie theater, eight restaurants, two luxury hotels, and a J.Lo owned club called the Conga Room.  All this cool stuff to do and we haven’t even talked about downtown LA and all the stuff to see around there. As a result of LA Live and downtown LA, the Staples Center easily has one of the best locations in the NBA. Even if there isn’t a game happening there is plenty to do at LA Live.

Sherief: I attended the Staples Center in 2013 for a game between the Lakers and Spurs and was extremely excited to see the iconic arena. I took a train to downtown (which I think there is a stigma against public transportation in LA) and walked the rest of the way to the stadium. At the time, downtown LA was underwhelming to me personally. LA Live was still being developed and ESPN Studios was just completed.  There is a JW Marriott nearby LA Live.  I was surprised to see how dead downtown LA was. There are a ton of buildings but I found it fairly quiet for such a big city. Obviously, things have changed since I visited!

David: Yeah it sounds like you were there around when they were halfway done with the LA Live construction. Because of LA Live, Staples Center is really amazing and a must visit for any NBA fan. If there is a knock against the location it’s that Los Angeles traffic sucks. But hey you get great weather and sunshine in the winter! Not many NBA cities can claim that.

Amenities

Staples Center Food

David: I really dug the food on the main concourse. There are some L.A. / California influenced stands. You can get Mexican food at BS Taqueria (section 117). Healthy food options like sushi and salad at Outakes (section 104). The French Dip sandwich at Deli & Dash (section 115) smells amazing. Yummy looking buttermilk fried chicken at Ludo Bird (section 119), a fast fired pizza at Blaze (section 109). You can sit down to eat at the Draft Kings sports bar (Section 116) or get an $11.50 quarter-pounder meal at McDonald’s. I had a chuckle at seeing at seeing Chicago-based brewery Goose Island and their interpretation of a Chicago-style hot dog (section 108). My favorite thing to eat was the Mac N’ Cheese dog at Dave’s Doghouse (section 102 and 111). A hot dog served on a grilled cheese style toast with bacon and mac!

Staples Center Review - Mac N Cheese dog

Sherief: I was really surprised to see how busy McDonald’s was. In true marketing fashion, I think the busy atmosphere along with it feeling ‘convenient’ drew me to overspend on a couple McChickens. As a fairly picky eater, it wasn’t great for me. They had some off-the-wall options. And I settled for McDonald’s.

David: Upper concourse has some good food too. Mostly standard fare but there’s Smokehouse BBQ (section 325) which has some good looking items, plus it’s off an outdoor roof deck overlooking downtown LA. There’s a margarita and specialty cocktail bar.  Amazingly enough there’s another McDonalds there too (and I must say it was packed).

Other Amenities

Sherief: Fan shop was poppin’! Because the Lakers have so much history, they had a ton of items to sell. They had amazing memorabilia from autographed George Mikan frames to signed Kobe Bryant Jerseys. The fan shop offered a ton of retro jerseys of the Laker Hall of Famers. They also had some options to buy replicas of championship trophies and rings. As a basketball fan, I was drooling over it all.

David: Yeah the Team LA store in the Staples Center is legit. For every game they switch all the Clippers merch to Lakers merch (or vice versa). I wonder what happens when the Clippers play the Lakers at the Staples. Do they split it half and half or do they treat it as a home game for that particular team? The fine art gallery inside the store was so cool. Oil paintings of classic NBA scenes and autographs adorn the walls. No pictures allowed tho (I did manage to sneak in a Snap).

Fan Experience

David: Here’s where attending  a Clippers or a Lakers game makes a difference. Let me first talk about the Clippers’ fan experience. Everything is your standard NBA fare. The Clippers have an emcee type of announcer and modern hip-hop tracks play during in game action. They have cheerleaders and a cheer squad throwing t-shirts and the like. To their detriment, they have a terrible looking mascot, probably one of the worst in the NBA. They were giving away Chuck the Condor plush dolls to kids at the arena and I can’t think of why a parent would allow their children keep it. Not even flame throwers can save their starting lineup introductions. Unfortunately, it’s probably the least crowd inspiring starting lineup I’ve seen in all my visits.

The Lakers are a different story. They still present their games in what I call the “classic” fashion. You won’t find the hype man emcee pumping the crowd and modern tracks are kept to a minimal. You won’t find a cheesy mascot like Chuck the Condor. The Laker Girls are classic as it comes. The starting lineups made me (a Spurs fan) get excited.  They played Purple Lamborghini by Rick Ross (apparently the track changes all the time).  During intros, a curtain that drops from the scoreboard and they project video onto it. It’s quite amazing and I’ve never seen anything like it before. I did only get a pair or purple shoe laces for the fan giveaway so that was a bit lame.

Sherief: First off, the introductions with the white banners that come down was amazing. I had seen nothing like it before. Then seeing all of the banners hung up was amazing. I am a sucker for basketball history and to be in the stadium where so many championships were won. The entire game felt like an act of drama instead of a basketball game. The game experience fit very much with the brand of the Lakers. The fans were made up of people who were there for status and who where there as die-hard Lakers fans.

Aesthetics

David: I suggest walking into the Staples Center from the LA Live plaza. First, it’s a gorgeous plaza but you also see the front facade of the Staples Center. Furthermore, you also see statues of great athletes including Magic Johnson, Kareem, Shaq, and a very tiny (maybe life size?) Oscar de la Hoya.

Sherief: The Staples Center is very photogenic on the outside, so spending time taking pictures before/ after the game is well worth it. The court is classic and is set like a play stage. As a sucker for basketball history, the championship banners is drool-worthy.

David: The interior of the Staples Center is really wonderful. It was nice and modern with a well laid out floor plan. If you had upper level seats (like I had for the Clippers game) it was a short escalator ride up. Because of low ceilings in certain areas, the upper concourse feels a bit tight at times. However, I do enjoy the large roof deck patio that had the BBQ restaurant, a bar, and lounge seating. The patio provides great views of downtown LA.

Probably the biggest difference in aesthetics between a Lakers or Clippers game is on the court. The Lakers display their championship banners and retired numbers in their full glory. During Clippers games, temporary banners of current Clippers players hang over the Lakers’ banners. Unlike the Lakers, the Clippers only have two division titles and no retired numbers, so there’s not much to hang from the rafters.  The Lakers also have the “showtime” feel by dimming the lights on the crowd and using more a yellowish or incandescent light. Opposite the Lakers, Clippers light up the entire arena and use more of a pure white light. I much prefer the Lakers’ lighting set up as it’s really unique and a throwback to the 80s when they played at the Forum.

Staples Center Review: Conclusion

Pros:

  • You’ll find great food options
  • LA Live is a terrific location
  • Lakers fan experience is amazing
  • Clippers ticket prices are cheap for a big city
  • Building has great aesthetics

Cons:

  • Clippers fan experience
  • LA traffic sucks
  • Lakers tickets are expensive
Staple Center Rating
  Location Amenities Fan Experience Aesthetics Overall Score
David (Lakers) 10 9 10 9 38
David (Clippers) 10 9 5 6 30
Sherief (Lakers) 7 8 8 9 32
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