Issue 91: Overplayed Basketball Arena Songs, Ranked

As NBA arenas across the nation begin to re-open, the fan experience is getting back in full swing. Of course, we have a few dum-dums ruining it for everyone, but generally, people are excited to cheer on (or boo) the team in front of them.

While watching the action on the court is a big part of going to a game, it’s not the entire experience. We’ve also got things like the Jumbotron, halftime entertainment, concessions, and more.

Something else you can expect at a basketball game? The same dozen or songs played, every single time. Sure, you’ll occasionally get a jam like Lil’ Flip’s “Way We Ball” or something else that gets you nodding your head.

More often, though, you’ll get the below tunes. And yes, I know this isn’t an exhaustive list, but I’m not trying to keep you here forever. Here we go.

10. Turn Down for What?

I liked when this song was used in SNL’s “Turtle Shirt” sketch (the online version uses a different but pretty similar song). I like it less during basketball games. The buildup is fine, then Lil’ Jon yells “TURN DOWN FOR WHAT?!” in a way only he can. I’ve never enjoyed those high-pitched melodies in hip-hop/pop songs, though, and this turns from “we hype” to “grating” really quickly.

9. Livin’ On a Prayer

Unless this fan is dancing to this song, I don’t want to hear it. Tommy and Gina can stay at home next time.

8. Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)

Like “Livin’ On a Prayer,” this song is better when being performed by a certain individual. This song by C + C Music Factory is pretty ubiquitous in stadiums and arenas across the land. Perhaps fans enjoy the lack of instruction — you can do any kind of dance you want, so long as you do it now. I think it goes on for too long, though, and thus, it gets bumped down a few notches.

7. Song 2

This is a song you may not know by name, but the “woo-hoo!” and the rocking riff should ignite some feelings. I first heard this track on EA Sports’ FIFA 98: Road to the World Cup game, and it’s probably played more often at soccer stadiums than anything else. What I find most funny is that Blur, the band behind this song, wrote it as a joke for its record label and likely to mock pop/grunge music on the radio, deeming it far too extreme to actually achieve mainstream success. Since it’s far and away their most popular song worldwide, it looks like they misjudged our taste for easy singalongs.

6. Sweet Caroline

BAH-BAH-BAHHHHH. This song would certainly be number one in Boston, but it’s middle of the pack here. It is overplayed to death FOR SURE, and the opening verse is probably a little too long before it kicks into the fun part. But dang, that chorus sure makes you want to sing along, even though you’ve heard it 6,784 times before.

5. We Will Rock You

This whole song is barely two minutes; you might have to repeat it during an exceptionally long time out. The “stomp-stomp-clap” rhythm is a pretty common one throughout a game even when a song isn’t playing, so it fits in nicely here. Plus, Freddie Mercury can grace my eardrums any day.

4. Pump Up the Jam

I’m pretty sure I heard this song in Space Jam before I ever heard it at a sporting event. Either way, it’s another one where the words are minimal. Really, there are only four lines you have to worry about: variants of “pump up the jam,” “while your feet are stomping,” “get your booty on the floor” and “I don’t want a place to stay.” Fun fact: I did not know what that last line was saying until just now. The internet is so informative!


You know what? I don’t mind hearing this bop at a basketball game. Any song with dance moves is bound to give us some uncoordinated moments, and it’s fun watching people spell out the letters to the title, even if the C is almost always facing the wrong way. If you come dressed as one of The Village People, perhaps you’ve gone too far.

2. The Final Countdown

This one does have lyrics, but we mostly know it for its cool synthesizer effect at the beginning. Even if you don’t know the proper name of this song, you have heard it. It’s most often played at the end of close games, which gives it an “intense moment” feel. In fact, it’s so catchy, I even sampled this song during a hip-hop jam I wrote.

1. Let’s Get It Started

I 100% remember this NBA commercial featuring this song before ever really hearing it on the radio. This is peak Black Eyed Peas — Fergie and are in top form, and the others (Taboo and, if you’re scoring at home) are also contributing. It’s very much a team effort, not unlike the Detroit Pistons 2004 NBA championship run, which happened the year this song came out. Anyway, even though it’s overplayed, I still think it’s a banger, and a rare instance when the “clean” version of a song is superior to the explicit version. Happy to hear this on any arena’s sound system.

Other Reads and Watches

Jonathan Tjarks on Luka Doncic being in a world of his own

Jacqueline LeBlanc on what happens to the WNBA MVP race as Jonquel Jones leaves for EuroBasket

Chris Mannix on the Damian Lillard dilemma

Chris Paul asks official for a technical on Nikola Jokic, official obliges

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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