National Basketball Association Christmas games

Games held by the National Basketball Association (NBA) on Christmas Day, December 25, have been an annual tradition since the league's second season in 1947.[1] Currently, five games are played on Christmas. Unlike the National Football League (NFL)'s traditional Thanksgiving Day games, the NBA's Christmas Day games have no fixed opponents; rather, they feature some of the best teams and players.[2] Since 1995, the current NBA champions play a game on Christmas Day.

History

76ers coach Doc Rivers (left) and Phil Jackson (right) have participated on Christmas Day as both player and coach. Jackson is tied for the most coaching victories on Christmas Day and won his 1,000th game as a coach on Christmas Day in 2008.
The NBA often schedules showdowns between greatest players on Christmas Day, such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James (both pictured) in 2009 and 2010. The former played on Christmas Day, more often than any other date on the calendar, while the latter has played a record 17 games on Christmas Day.

The first NBA game played on December 25 came in 1947, a year after the NBA's inception, when the New York Knicks beat the Providence Steamrollers at Madison Square Garden 89–75.[1] Since then, the NBA has played games every year on Christmas Day except in 1998 (when a lockout canceled half the 1998–99 season). In contrast, Major League Baseball is in its off-season during Christmas, the National Football League only schedules Christmas games when Christmas falls on the weekend (and even then only schedules games on Christmas occasionally) and the National Hockey League's collective bargaining agreement forbids playing games on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day (celebrated as such in Canada as a statutory holiday, though otherwise the non-holiday day after Christmas in the United States; in seasons in which the latter falls on a Saturday, the break occurs one day earlier, from December 23–25). In college football, the only bowl game traditionally scheduled for Christmas has been the defunct Aloha Bowl (and for one year, its replacement, the ESPN Events-owned Hawaii Bowl; that game itself moved its date specifically due to ESPN/ABC's acquisition of NBA telecasts, including Christmas Day games). Thus, the NBA is the only league to regularly schedule games on December 25.[1]

In the early days, regional proximity dictated most of the matchups.[3] Teams would usually play their geographical rivals to cut down on holiday travel and to allow them to have more time with their families.[3] According to Dr. Jack Ramsay, who coached the Portland Trail Blazers from 1976–77 (their only championship season) to 1986, "Christmas meant being at home with the family and having a game we always won. That was a perfect Christmas to me."[3] He set the record for most coaching victories on Christmas Day with 11, an achievement that Phil Jackson later matched in 2008.[4]

In the early 1980s, the New York Knicks put on a show three years in a row. In one game (1984), hall-of-fame forward Bernard King scoring 60 points—the most ever scored by a player on Christmas Day,[1] With the advent of television and the excitement caused by these games, the NBA decided to schedule games over the holiday that showcased the best teams and players.[3] While there is no specific system to determine for which teams will play the Christmas games, the games usually include the teams that played in the previous season's NBA Finals, as well as the team with the league's reigning MVP.

Teams and players

The Knicks have played more Christmas Day games than any other team, with 54 total. They are 23–31 on the holiday.[5] Their most recent Yuletide appearance came in 2021 when they defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 101–87, at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks have a checkered history on the 25th. Their 23 wins are the second most by a team on Christmas Day,[4] while their 31 losses are the most.

The first Christmas Day game to take place outside the United States took place in 2019 when the Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 118-102 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada.[6]

Some players have participated on Christmas Day as both player and coach. Doc Rivers played with the Knicks in 1992 and coached the Boston Celtics from 2008 to 2013. Phil Jackson, who also participated as a player and coach, has been a part of at least 20 holiday games,[7] coaching on Christmas every year from 1990, with the exception of 1995 and 2004, until his retirement at the end of the 2010–11 season. He won his 1,000th game on Christmas Day in 2008.[4][8] LeBron James and Kobe Bryant played 16 games each on Christmas Day, tied for the most of any player.[9] In fact, the latter played more often on Christmas than on any other date on the calendar, playing his first in 1996 and his last in 2015.[1][10]

Many teams and players that have played on this day have worn special uniforms and sneakers.[11] From 2009 to 2011, the Knicks wore their third jersey, the green/orange alternate which they first used exclusively for St. Patrick's Day. During the game between the Heat and the Lakers in 2010, players on both teams wore holiday sneakers. Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom wore lime-green Nike sneakers[11] while James and Chris Bosh wore holiday-red shoes with green laces.[11] From 2008 to 2011, teams playing on Christmas Day wore a patch featuring the NBA logo inside a snowflake. Between 2012 and 2016, the NBA and Adidas produced special uniforms for the Christmas games. All of these uniforms feature a particular theme, such as monochromatic designs ('Big Color') and chrome-treated logos ('Big Logo'). In 2015 and 2016, Stance provided Christmas-themed socks for the games.

After Nike became the uniform provider in 2017, no Christmas-themed uniforms were produced. Instead, NBA teams playing on that day wore either "City" or "Statement" alternate uniforms. During the 2018–19 season, a few teams wore a fifth alternate known as "Earned" uniforms; these were given as a reward for making the 2018 NBA playoffs.

Memorable moments

The NBA Christmas Day contests have featured some of the most memorable games ever played.[2][12] Bernard King scored 60 points for the New York Knicks in 1984. Patrick Ewing helped the Knicks come back to beat the Boston Celtics after trailing by 25 points in 1985. He then beat Michael Jordan and the Bulls on a last-second jumper in 1986. Scottie Pippen performed a last-second block in 1994.

The first showdown featuring Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal as opponents occurred on Christmas, 2004. 2009 and 2010 featured faceoffs between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.[3][13][14][15] Phil Jackson becoming the fastest coach to win 1,000 games (it happened on December 25, 2008).[8] In 2021, LeBron James became the all-time Christmas Day scorer with 422 points, surpassing Kobe Bryant, who scored 383 points.[9]

As a result of a lockout in 2011, Christmas Day was also the season opener.[16] ESPN/ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy talked about that day, saying, "It's a different opening day than has ever happened in the past and Christmas Day games have always been a big day for the NBA. This unique situation combined with the unveiling of a championship banner for the Mavericks in a finals rematch, and then to see the Lakers and the debut of Mike Brown as head coach, those things are all going to be very compelling."[16]

Rivalries have also been showcased during games played on this day. During the 1990s, every Christmas but one featured a game involving either the New York Knicks or the Chicago Bulls, with the two teams playing against each other twice (in the Bulls championship season of 1992–93 and in 1994).[17][18] They would have met a third time in 1998, if there had not been a lockout.[19] The only year during the 1990s in which neither team played on Christmas Day was during the Bulls first championship season in their second three-peat, in 1995–96.[20] During the 2000s, the NBA showcased the Shaq–Kobe feud. Since 1999, each Christmas has featured games involving either the Celtics or the Lakers, with both teams playing on the holiday in 2002 and every year since 2008. In a great pairing, the two teams faced off against each in other during the first of the Lakers' most recent back-to-back championship seasons of 2008–09. This was the first meeting between the two teams since the finals of the year before.

The home team is 142–75 in Christmas games. The winning percentage of .654 for the home team on Christmas Day is better than the overall winning percentage for home teams during the regular season or the playoffs since 1992.[1]

Scheduling and broadcasting

After a season's NBA Finals comes to an end, officials from both the NBA and the network that broadcast the NBA meet to plan the schedule of games for the holiday during the upcoming season.[3] In most cases, two of the teams that play during the holiday are the teams that reached the finals the previous season.[3] The NBA usually tries to have the best players play against each other.[3] Some examples of this include 2009 and 2010, when the defending champions of those seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers played at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009 and the Miami Heat in 2010, so that they could have showdowns between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James both times.[3][11]

Broadcasting

Since 2009, Christmas Day broadcasts of the NBA feature Mariah Carey in a music video singing "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and "Oh Santa!" ("Oh Santa!" since 2010)

The first telecast of an NBA game on Christmas Day dates back to the league's early years. In 1947, the Providence Steamrollers played in New York against the Knicks on WCBS channel 2 at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Stan Lomax and Bob Edge called that game. Fifteen minutes later, at 8:15 p.m. Central Time, Joe Wilson broadcast the game between Baltimore Bullets and Chicago Stags for WBKB channel 4 in Chicago.

The first nationally televised Christmas Day NBA broadcast occurred in 1967, when ABC broadcast a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Diego Rockets from San Diego. Jerry Gross and Jack Twyman called that broadcast for ABC. ABC would continue to televise Christmas Day games through 1972. Chris Schenkel did play-by-play for ABC during this period with the exception of 1970, when Keith Jackson had the honors. Jack Twyman remained in the color commentating position up until 1971, when Bill Russell took over. From 1975-1989 (with the exception of 1982), CBS broadcast a game on Christmas Day.

However, it was not until 1983 that the games became a household tradition, when CBS broadcast the game between the New Jersey Nets and the New York Knicks and ESPN broadcast the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers (Sam Smith and Dick Vitale were on the call for ESPN).[12] In the 1990s, NBC broadcast a doubleheader each year on Christmas Day (except in 1998, when there were no games played on Christmas Day due to the 1998–99 NBA lockout) and this has continued after ABC took over in 2002, except that in 2004 and 2006, ABC broadcast only one game. For three years (2004–2006), ABC insisted on having a Christmas Day game between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers so that Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal could play against each other. Since ABC took over the NBA, ESPN has also broadcast games on Christmas Day (except in 2006). Since 2009, Christmas Day broadcasts on ESPN and ABC have featured a music video with Mariah Carey singing "All I Want for Christmas Is You."[21][22] In 2010, Carey added "Oh Santa!"[22]

In 2008, TNT broadcast on Christmas Day for the first time as Marv Albert, Mike Fratello and Craig Sager called the game between Washington and Cleveland in Cleveland and Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller called the game between Dallas and Portland in Portland. This marked the first time that all three networks that cover the NBA (ABC, ESPN, and TNT) produced games on Christmas Day. As Christmas Day fell on a Thursday that year, TNT was given two primetime games as part of their regular TNT NBA Thursday slate (the same scenario also took place in 2014).

Due to the 2011 NBA lockout, the season opener took place on Christmas Day that year. As a result, the NBA gave TNT the first game of the Christmas slate with a contest between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Calling the game were Marv Albert (himself a former Knicks broadcaster) and Steve Kerr.[16] Because of this, Albert, who was also working for CBS's NFL coverage, was forced to miss his scheduled Week 16 game the day before. Also on that day, ABC broadcast the Dallas Mavericks' 2011 Championship banner ceremony during their pre-game show. This marked the first time in NBA history that a pre-game championship banner ceremony has been aired on a terrestrial television network; either Turner Sports or a regional sports network aired the ceremonies in previous years.

In a unique situation in 2017, ABC aired an NBA tripleheader for the first time ever, which was headlined by a 2017 NBA Finals rematch between LeBron James and the Cavaliers and Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors, which would be the prelude to the 2018 Finals rematch, which resulted in a Warriors sweep. Because ESPN aired Monday Night Football on Christmas night, they only aired one game, which was at 12 ET. TNT aired the 10:30 pm game, the network's first Christmas Day game since 2014. However, instead of employing either Marv Albert or Kevin Harlan and their roster of game analysts, Turner opted to use the Inside the NBA crew of Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kenny "The Jet" Smith and Charles Barkley for the game, with TNT's No. 2 sideline reporter Kristen Ledlow working the sidelines and halftime.

For 2022, ABC was originally scheduled to air a tripleheader. However in October 2022, ESPN announced that all five of its Christmas Day games would be simulcast across both ABC and ESPN, likely as an attempt to counterprogram the NFL's scheduling of a Christmas Day tripleheader across CBS, Fox, and NBC.[23]

Game results

SeasonVisiting TeamScoreHome TeamScoreOTSignificanceNetwork
1947–48Chicago Stags70Baltimore Bullets87First BAA Christmas Day game.
Providence Steamrollers75New York Knicks89
Washington Capitols73St. Louis Bombers56
1948–49Chicago Stags70New York Knicks64
Boston Celtics77Philadelphia Warriors80
Baltimore Bullets88Providence Steamrollers83Bullets enter as the defending BAA champions.
St. Louis Bombers82Rochester Royals90
Fort Wayne Pistons74Washington Capitols88
1949–50Philadelphia Warriors64Baltimore Bullets63First Christmas Day game for the renamed NBA.
Sheboygan Red Skins76Denver Nuggets72
Fort Wayne Pistons58Minneapolis Lakers72Lakers enter as the defending BAA (NBA) champions.
Boston Celtics79Rochester Royals88
Washington Capitols81St. Louis Bombers68
Anderson Packers88Syracuse Nationals94
Indianapolis Olympians93Waterloo Hawks97
1950–51Washington Capitols79Minneapolis Lakers93
New York Knicks86Philadelphia Warriors84(OT)
Boston Celtics77Rochester Royals90
Fort Wayne Pistons69Syracuse Nationals81
Baltimore Bullets72Tri-Cities Blackhawks87
1951–52Syracuse Nationals78Milwaukee Hawks88
Boston Celtics79Minneapolis Lakers108
Fort Wayne Pistons80New York Knicks89
Indianapolis Olympians73Rochester Royals65Royals enter as the defending NBA champions.
1952–53Milwaukee Hawks69Fort Wayne Pistons71(2OT)
Indianapolis Olympians73Minneapolis Lakers90Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.
Boston Celtics84New York Knicks97
Rochester Royals93Philadelphia Warriors78
Baltimore Bullets92Syracuse Nationals102
1953–54Minneapolis Lakers78Baltimore Bullets88Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.
Boston Celtics79Fort Wayne Pistons108
Syracuse Nationals80New York Knicks89
Rochester Royals73Philadelphia Warriors65
1954–55Boston Celtics108Milwaukee Hawks99
Philadelphia Warriors91Minneapolis Lakers99Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.
Syracuse Nationals101New York Knicks109
Fort Wayne Pistons73Rochester Royals80
1955–56New York Knicks87Fort Wayne Pistons92
Boston Celtics115Minneapolis Lakers112
Rochester Royals96Syracuse Nationals111Nationals enter as the defending NBA champions.
1956–57Philadelphia Warriors89Boston Celtics82Warriors enter as the defending NBA champions.
Minneapolis Lakers100Fort Wayne Pistons89
St. Louis Hawks107New York Knicks105(OT)
Syracuse Nationals93Rochester Royals98
1957–58Minneapolis Lakers106Detroit Pistons104
Boston Celtics105Philadelphia Warriors115Celtics enter as the defending NBA champions.
New York Knicks130Syracuse Nationals134(OT)
1958–59St. Louis Hawks100Cincinnati Royals92Hawks enter as the defending NBA champions.
Minneapolis Lakers97Detroit Pistons98(OT)
Boston Celtics129New York Knicks120
1959–60Detroit Pistons103Cincinnati Royals121
Boston Celtics123New York Knicks119Celtics enter as the defending NBA champions.
Syracuse Nationals121Philadelphia Warriors129
Minneapolis Lakers96St. Louis Hawks112
1960–61Detroit Pistons119Cincinnati Royals126
New York Knicks100Syracuse Nationals162
1961–62Detroit Pistons97Chicago Packers118Packers' first Christmas Day game, Only one played while known as the Packers.
Los Angeles Lakers141Cincinnati Royals127
Philadelphia Warriors135New York Knicks136(2OT)
Boston Celtics127Syracuse Nationals122Celtics enter as the defending NBA champions.
1962–63Detroit Pistons120Cincinnati Royals131
Syracuse Nationals123New York Knicks111
St. Louis Hawks91San Francisco Warriors94
1963–64St. Louis Hawks107Cincinnati Royals113
Los Angeles Lakers134New York Knicks126
1964–65Detroit Pistons106Boston Celtics118Celtics enter as the defending NBA champions.
St. Louis Hawks125Cincinnati Royals130(OT)
Baltimore Bullets114New York Knicks108First Christmas Day game now known as the Bullets.
1965–66Boston Celtics113Baltimore Bullets99Celtics enter as the defending NBA champions.
San Francisco Warriors113Cincinnati Royals119
Detroit Pistons106Los Angeles Lakers115
St. Louis Hawks131New York Knicks111
1966–67Detroit Pistons129Baltimore Bullets127(OT)
San Francisco Warriors124Cincinnati Royals112
Chicago Bulls132New York Knicks133Bulls–Knicks rivalry
1967–68Philadelphia 76ers108Baltimore Bullets10576ers enter as the defending NBA champions.
Seattle SuperSonics112Cincinnati Royals118SuperSonics' first Christmas Day game
Boston Celtics134New York Knicks124
Los Angeles Lakers101San Diego Rockets104Rockets' first Christmas Day game; also first nationally televised game (ABC).ABC
Oakland Oaks98Kentucky Colonels112ABA game
1968–69Seattle SuperSonics112Baltimore Bullets118
Chicago Bulls98Cincinnati Royals103
Detroit Pistons119Milwaukee Bucks113Bucks' first Christmas Day game
Philadelphia 76ers109New York Knicks110
Los Angeles Lakers119Phoenix Suns99Suns' first Christmas Day gameABC
Minnesota Pipers129Kentucky Colonels118ABA game
Oakland Oaks127Los Angeles Stars122ABA game
Denver Rockets129New York Nets110ABA game
1969–70Philadelphia 76ers113Baltimore Bullets121
San Francisco Warriors124Cincinnati Royals120(OT)
Detroit Pistons111New York Knicks112
Boston Celtics116Phoenix Suns127Celtics enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Los Angeles Stars105Kentucky Colonels101ABA game
Washington Caps131Pittsburgh Pipers112ABA game
1970–71Chicago Bulls112Baltimore Bullets128
Cleveland Cavaliers100Cincinnati Royals117
Boston Celtics113Los Angeles Lakers123
Buffalo Braves102New York Knicks115Braves' first Christmas Day game, Knicks enter as the defending NBA champions.
Detroit Pistons100Philadelphia 76ers105
Atlanta Hawks115Phoenix Suns127ABC
Utah Stars102Memphis Pros107ABA game
Carolina Cougars121Pittsburgh Condors136ABA game
Texas Chaparrals131Virginia Squires145ABA game
1971–72Buffalo Braves117Atlanta Hawks140
Boston Celtics99Cincinnati Royals94
Milwaukee Bucks118Detroit Pistons120(OT)Bucks enter as the defending NBA champions.
Golden State Warriors89New York Knicks114
Baltimore Bullets117Philadelphia 76ers114
Seattle SuperSonics86Phoenix Suns116
Chicago Bulls109Portland Trail Blazers88
Carolina Cougars102Memphis Pros110ABA game
Indiana Pacers129Utah Stars150ABA game
Pittsburgh Condors126Virginia Squires133ABA game
1972–73Milwaukee Bucks104Kansas City-Omaha Kings99
Detroit Pistons110New York Knicks113
Chicago Bulls108Phoenix Suns115ABC
Seattle SuperSonics113Portland Trail Blazers116
1973–74Capital Bullets102New York Knicks100Knicks enter as the defending NBA champions.
Los Angeles Lakers100Phoenix Suns135
1974–75Philadelphia 76ers104New York Knicks97
Boston Celtics96Phoenix Suns110Celtics enter as the defending NBA champions.
Atlanta Hawks92Washington Bullets110
San Diego Conquistadors100Utah Stars112ABA game
1975–76Houston Rockets99New Orleans Jazz101Jazz's first Christmas Day game
Philadelphia 76ers103New York Knicks111
Kansas City Kings111Phoenix Suns122CBS
Atlanta Hawks94Washington Bullets99
1976–77Detroit Pistons106Buffalo Braves115
Chicago Bulls96Kansas City Kings91CBS
Philadelphia 76ers105New York Knicks104
Los Angeles Lakers96Phoenix Suns113
Seattle SuperSonics95Portland Trail Blazers110
Cleveland Cavaliers99Washington Bullets117
1977–78Buffalo Braves105Cleveland Cavaliers111CBS
Milwaukee Bucks131Kansas City Kings122
San Antonio Spurs115New Orleans Jazz105
Philadelphia 76ers110New York Knicks113
Golden State Warriors97Portland Trail Blazers109Trail Blazers enter as the defending NBA champions.
Los Angeles Lakers111Seattle SuperSonics96
Atlanta Hawks93Washington Bullets100
1978–79Philadelphia 76ers109New York Knicks94CBS
Golden State Warriors102Portland Trail Blazers115
San Diego Clippers123Seattle SuperSonics118
1979–80Detroit Pistons101Cleveland Cavaliers111
New Jersey Nets102New York Knicks131Knicks–Nets rivalry
Golden State Warriors91Portland Trail Blazers113
Denver Nuggets111Utah Jazz122
Philadelphia 76ers95Washington Bullets92CBS
1980–81Boston Celtics117New York Knicks108Celtics–Knicks rivalryCBS
San Antonio Spurs111Phoenix Suns131Spurs–Suns rivalry
Golden State Warriors114Portland Trail Blazers115USA
New Jersey Nets94Washington Bullets109USA
1981–82New Jersey Nets96New York Knicks95Knicks–Nets rivalry
Los Angeles Lakers104Phoenix Suns101CBS
Seattle SuperSonics94Portland Trail Blazers99
Indiana Pacers98Washington Bullets115
1982–83New Jersey Nets112New York Knicks110(OT)Knicks–Nets rivalry
Seattle SuperSonics88Portland Trail Blazers95
Phoenix Suns111Utah Jazz101
Atlanta Hawks97Washington Bullets91
1983–84New Jersey Nets110New York Knicks112(OT)Knicks–Nets rivalryCBS
Los Angeles Lakers121Portland Trail Blazers141ESPN
1984–85Atlanta Hawks106Cleveland Cavaliers109
Philadelphia 76ers109Detroit Pistons108CBS
New Jersey Nets120New York Knicks114Knicks–Nets rivalryTBS
Golden State Warriors97Portland Trail Blazers106
1985–86Boston Celtics104New York Knicks113(2OT)Celtics–Knicks rivalryCBS
Los Angeles Clippers107Portland Trail Blazers121TBS
1986–87Chicago Bulls85New York Knicks86Bulls–Knicks rivalryCBS
Washington Bullets102Philadelphia 76ers971986 NBA playoffs first round rematchTBS
1987–88Detroit Pistons91New York Knicks87CBS
Atlanta Hawks106Philadelphia 76ers100TBS
1988–89Washington Bullets110Philadelphia 76ers125TBS
Los Angeles Lakers87Utah Jazz101Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions. 1988 NBA playoffs second round rematchCBS
1989–90Cleveland Cavaliers104Atlanta Hawks115CBS
1990–91Detroit Pistons86Chicago Bulls98Bulls–Pistons rivalry, Pistons enter as the defending NBA champions.

1990 NBA playoffs Eastern Conference Finals rematch

NBC
1991–92Boston Celtics99Chicago Bulls121Bulls enter as the defending NBA champions.NBC
Los Angeles Lakers85Los Angeles Clippers75Lakers–Clippers rivalryNBC
1992–93New York Knicks77Chicago Bulls89Bulls–Knicks rivalry, Bulls enter as the defending NBA champions.

1992 NBA playoffs second round rematch

NBC
San Antonio Spurs103Los Angeles Clippers94NBC
1993–94Orlando Magic93Chicago Bulls95Magic' First Christmas Game

Bulls enter as the defending NBA champions.

NBC
Houston Rockets91Phoenix Suns111NBC
1994–95New York Knicks104Chicago Bulls107(OT)Bulls–Knicks rivalry 1994 NBA playoffs second round rematchNBC
Seattle SuperSonics96Denver Nuggets1051994 NBA playoffs first round rematchNBC
1995–96Houston Rockets90Orlando Magic921995 NBA Finals rematch, Rockets enter as the defending NBA champions.NBC
San Antonio Spurs105Phoenix Suns100Spurs–Suns rivalryNBC
1996–97Detroit Pistons83Chicago Bulls95Bulls–Pistons rivalry, Bulls enter as the defending NBA champions.NBC
Los Angeles Lakers108Phoenix Suns87NBC
1997–98Miami Heat80Chicago Bulls90Bulls enter as the defending NBA champions. 1997 NBA playoffs Eastern Conference Finals rematchNBC
Houston Rockets103Utah Jazz107Jazz–Rockets rivalry 1997 NBA playoffs Western Conference Finals rematchNBC
1998–99Due to the league's six-month lockout, the season started late in February. As a result, no Christmas Day game was held during this season.
1999–2000New York Knicks90Indiana Pacers101Knicks–Pacers rivalry, 1999 NBA playoffs Eastern Conference Finals rematch.NBC
San Antonio Spurs93Los Angeles Lakers99Lakers–Spurs rivalry, 1999 NBA playoffs second round rematch, Spurs enter as the defending NBA champions.NBC
2000–01Orlando Magic93Indiana Pacers103NBC
Portland Trail Blazers109Los Angeles Lakers1042000 NBA playoffs Western Conference Finals rematch., Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.NBC
2001–02Philadelphia 76ers82Los Angeles Lakers882001 NBA Finals rematch, Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.NBC
Toronto Raptors94New York Knicks102Raptors' first Christmas Day game, 2001 NBA playoffs first round rematch.NBC
2002–03Detroit Pistons99Orlando Magic107(OT)ESPN
Boston Celtics81New Jersey Nets1172002 NBA playoffs Eastern Conference Finals rematch.ABC
Sacramento Kings105Los Angeles Lakers992002 NBA playoffs Western Conference Finals rematch, Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
2003–04Cleveland Cavaliers101Orlando Magic113(OT)LeBron James's first Christmas Day game.ESPN
Dallas Mavericks111Sacramento Kings103Mavericks' first Christmas Day game, 2003 NBA playoffs second round rematch.ABC
Houston Rockets99Los Angeles Lakers87ABC
2004–05Detroit Pistons98Indiana Pacers932004 NBA playoffs Eastern Conference Finals rematch, Malice at the Palace rematch, Pistons enter as the defending NBA champions.ESPN
Miami Heat104Los Angeles Lakers102(OT)Shaq–Kobe feudABC
2005–06San Antonio Spurs70Detroit Pistons852005 NBA Finals rematch, Spurs enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Los Angeles Lakers92Miami Heat97Shaq–Kobe feudABC
2006–07Los Angeles Lakers85Miami Heat101Shaq–Kobe feud, Heat enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
2007–08Miami Heat82Cleveland Cavaliers96ABC
Phoenix Suns115Los Angeles Lakers1222007 NBA playoffs first round rematch.ABC
Seattle SuperSonics79Portland Trail Blazers89ESPN
2008–09Washington Wizards89Cleveland Cavaliers932008 NBA playoffs first round rematch.TNT
Boston Celtics83Los Angeles Lakers92Celtics–Lakers rivalry, 2008 NBA Finals rematch, Celtics enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
New Orleans Hornets68Orlando Magic88Hornets' (New Orleans) first Christmas Day game.ESPN
San Antonio Spurs91Phoenix Suns90Spurs–Suns rivalry, 2008 NBA playoffs first round rematch.ABC
Dallas Mavericks102Portland Trail Blazers94TNT
2009–10Miami Heat93New York Knicks87Heat–Knicks rivalryESPN
Cleveland Cavaliers102Los Angeles Lakers87Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Boston Celtics86Orlando Magic772009 NBA playoffs second round rematch.ABC
Los Angeles Clippers93Phoenix Suns124ESPN
Denver Nuggets96Portland Trail Blazers107ESPN
2010–11Chicago Bulls95New York Knicks103Bulls–Knicks rivalryESPN
Boston Celtics78Orlando Magic862010 NBA playoffs Eastern Conference Finals rematch.ABC
Miami Heat96Los Angeles Lakers80Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Denver Nuggets106Oklahoma City Thunder114ESPN
Portland Trail Blazers102Golden State Warriors109ESPN
2011–12Boston Celtics104New York Knicks106Celtics–Knicks rivalry, 2011 NBA playoffs first round rematch.TNT
Miami Heat105Dallas Mavericks942011 NBA Finals rematch, Mavericks enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Chicago Bulls88Los Angeles Lakers87ABC
Orlando Magic89Oklahoma City Thunder97ESPN
Los Angeles Clippers105Golden State Warriors86ESPN
2012–13Boston Celtics93Brooklyn Nets76ESPN
New York Knicks94Los Angeles Lakers100ABC
Oklahoma City Thunder97Miami Heat1032012 NBA Finals rematch, Heat enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Houston Rockets120Chicago Bulls97ESPN
Denver Nuggets100Los Angeles Clippers112ESPN
2013–14Chicago Bulls95Brooklyn Nets782013 NBA playoffs first round rematch.ESPN
Oklahoma City Thunder123New York Knicks94ABC
Miami Heat101Los Angeles Lakers95Heat enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Houston Rockets111San Antonio Spurs98Rockets–Spurs rivalryESPN
Los Angeles Clippers103Golden State Warriors105ESPN
2014–15Washington Wizards102New York Knicks91ESPN
Oklahoma City Thunder114San Antonio Spurs1062014 NBA playoffs Western Conference Finals rematch, Spurs enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Cleveland Cavaliers91Miami Heat101LeBron James against his former team.ABC
Los Angeles Lakers93Chicago Bulls113TNT
Golden State Warriors86Los Angeles Clippers1002014 NBA playoffs first round rematch.TNT
2015–16New Orleans Pelicans88Miami Heat94(OT)ESPN
Chicago Bulls105Oklahoma City Thunder96ABC
Cleveland Cavaliers83Golden State Warriors89Cavaliers–Warriors rivalry, 2015 NBA Finals rematch, Warriors enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
San Antonio Spurs84Houston Rockets88Rockets–Spurs rivalryESPN
Los Angeles Clippers94Los Angeles Lakers84Lakers–Clippers rivalryESPN
2016–17Boston Celtics119New York Knicks114Celtics–Knicks rivalryESPN
Golden State Warriors108Cleveland Cavaliers109Cavaliers–Warriors rivalry, 2016 NBA Finals rematch, Cavaliers enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Chicago Bulls100San Antonio Spurs119ABC
Minnesota Timberwolves100Oklahoma City Thunder112Timberwolves' first Christmas Day gameESPN
Los Angeles Clippers102Los Angeles Lakers111Lakers–Clippers rivalryESPN
2017–18Philadelphia 76ers105New York Knicks98ESPN
Cleveland Cavaliers92Golden State Warriors99Cavaliers–Warriors rivalry, 2017 NBA Finals rematch, Warriors enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Washington Wizards111Boston Celtics1032017 NBA playoffs second round rematch.ABC
Houston Rockets107Oklahoma City Thunder1122017 NBA playoffs first round rematch.ABC
Minnesota Timberwolves121Los Angeles Lakers104TNT
2018–19Milwaukee Bucks109New York Knicks95ESPN
Oklahoma City Thunder109Houston Rockets113ABC
Philadelphia 76ers114Boston Celtics121(OT)76ers–Celtics rivalry, 2018 NBA playoffs second round rematch.ABC
Los Angeles Lakers127Golden State Warriors101Warriors enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC/ESPN
Portland Trail Blazers96Utah Jazz117ESPN
2019–20Boston Celtics118Toronto Raptors102First Christmas Day game in Canada; Raptors enter as the defending NBA champions.ESPN
Milwaukee Bucks109Philadelphia 76ers121ABC
Houston Rockets104Golden State Warriors1162019 NBA playoffs second round rematch.ABC
Los Angeles Clippers111Los Angeles Lakers106Lakers–Clippers rivalryABC/ESPN
New Orleans Pelicans112Denver Nuggets100ESPN
2020–21New Orleans Pelicans98Miami Heat111ESPN
Golden State Warriors99Milwaukee Bucks138ABC
Brooklyn Nets123Boston Celtics95ABC
Dallas Mavericks115Los Angeles Lakers138Lakers enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC/ESPN
Los Angeles Clippers121Denver Nuggets1082020 NBA playoffs second round rematchESPN
2021–22Atlanta Hawks87New York Knicks 1012021 NBA playoffs first round rematch.ESPN
Boston Celtics113Milwaukee Bucks117Bucks enter as the defending NBA champions.ABC
Golden State Warriors116Phoenix Suns107ABC
Brooklyn Nets122Los Angeles Lakers115ABC/ESPN
Dallas Mavericks116Utah Jazz120ESPN
2022–23 Philadelphia 76ers119New York Knicks112ABC/ESPN
Los Angeles Lakers115Dallas Mavericks124ABC/ESPN
Milwaukee Bucks118Boston Celtics1392022 NBA playoffs second round rematch.ABC/ESPN
Memphis Grizzlies109Golden State Warriors123Grizzlies' first Christmas Day game, Warriors enter as the defending NBA champions. 2022 NBA playoffs second round rematch.ABC/ESPN
Phoenix Suns125Denver Nuggets128(OT)ABC/ESPN

Christmas Day standings

Of current NBA teams.[24]

Team Last Game Wins Losses Win % Previous team names
Atlanta Hawks2021
(Lost 101–87 at New York)
912.429 Tri-Cities Blackhawks (1949–1951)
Milwaukee Hawks (1951–1955)
St. Louis Hawks (1955–1968)
Boston Celtics2022
(Won 118–139 vs. Milwaukee)
1620.444
Brooklyn Nets2021
(Won 122–115 at L.A. Lakers)
65.545 New Jersey Nets (1977–2012)
Charlotte HornetsNever00 Charlotte Hornets (original) (1988–2002)
Charlotte Bobcats (2004–2014)
Chicago Bulls2016
(Lost 119–100 at San Antonio)
138.619
Cleveland Cavaliers2017
(Lost 99–92 at Golden State)
77.500
Dallas Mavericks2022
(Won 115–124 vs. L.A. Lakers)
33.500
Denver Nuggets2022
(Won 125–128 vs. Phoenix)
26.250
Detroit Pistons2005
(Won 85–70 vs. San Antonio)
1022.313 Fort Wayne Pistons (1948–1957)
Golden State Warriors2022
(Won 109–123 vs. Memphis)
1517.469 Philadelphia Warriors (1946–1962)
San Francisco Warriors (1962–1971)
Houston Rockets2019
(Lost 104–116 at Golden State)
66.500 San Diego Rockets (1967–1971)
Indiana Pacers2004
(Lost 98–93 vs. Detroit)
22.500
Los Angeles Clippers2020
(Won 121–108 at Denver)
89.471 Buffalo Braves (1970–1978)
San Diego Clippers (1978–1984)
Los Angeles Lakers2022
(Lost 115–124 at Dallas)
2425.490 Minneapolis Lakers (1948–1960)
Memphis Grizzlies2022
(Lost 123109 at Golden State)
01.000 Vancouver Grizzlies (1995–2001)
Miami Heat2020
(Won 111–98 vs. New Orleans)
112.846
Milwaukee Bucks2022
(Lost 118–139 at Boston)
54.556
Minnesota Timberwolves2017
(Won 121–104 at L.A. Lakers)
11.500
New Orleans Pelicans2020
(Lost 98–111 at Miami)
13.250 New Orleans Hornets (2002–2005, 2007–2013)
New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (2005–2007)
New York Knicks2022
(Lost 119–112 vs. Philadelphia)
2332.418
Oklahoma City Thunder2018
(Lost 113–109 at Houston)
614.300 Seattle SuperSonics (1967–2008)
Orlando Magic2011
(Lost 97–89 at Oklahoma City)
54.556
Philadelphia 76ers2022
(Won 119–112 at New York)
1914.576 Syracuse Nationals (1949–1963)
Phoenix Suns2022
(Lost 125–128 at Denver)
128.600
Portland Trail Blazers2018
(Lost 117–96 at Utah)
144.778
Sacramento Kings2003
(Lost 111–103 vs. Dallas)
1811.621 Rochester Royals (1948–1957)
Cincinnati Royals (1957–1972)
Kansas City-Omaha Kings (1972–1975)
Kansas City Kings (1975–1985)
San Antonio Spurs2016
(Won 119–100 vs. Chicago)
56.455
Toronto Raptors2019
(Lost 118–102 vs. Boston)
02.000
Utah Jazz2021
(Won 120–116 vs. Dallas)
62.750 New Orleans Jazz (1974–1979)
Washington Wizards2017
(Won 111–103 at Boston)
167.696 Chicago Packers (1961–1962)
Chicago Zephyrs (1962–1963)
Baltimore Bullets (1963–1973)
Capital Bullets (1973–1974)
Washington Bullets (1974–1997)

Most frequent match-ups among active teams

Count Matchup Record Years Played
13 New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers 76ers, 8–5 1953, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1968, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 2017, 2022
8 Boston Celtics vs. New York Knicks Celtics, 5–3 1954, 1958, 1959, 1967, 1980, 1985, 2011, 2016
6 Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers Trail Blazers, 5–1 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1984, 2010
6 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Phoenix Suns Lakers, 4–2 1968, 1973, 1976, 1981, 1996, 2007
6 Philadelphia 76ers vs. Washington Wizards Tie, 3–3 1967, 1969, 1971, 1979, 1986, 1988

Reception

Praise

Mike D'Antoni said that the players should feel "very fortunate" to play on Christmas Day and said that they could adjust their schedules a bit.

Several fans, players, coaches, and members of the news media support the tradition of Christmas games. For players and coaches, the standard public statement is that a Christmas game is an honor, as it is not only a chance to play on national television, but also a reward for having a great team and great players.[3]

Before the game between the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic at Amway Arena in 2009, personnel on both sides referred to playing on Christmas as a reward. Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said that like most of the players, he always watched Christmas Day games growing up. He said, "As a kid, you wanted to be on Christmas...I tend to look at it as a reward."[25] In 2010, added that it was an "honor" to be part of the marquee games, saying, "I look at it as a privilege. The fact that they asked us to play on Christmas means we're one of the good teams, one of the featured teams."[26] Magic Center Dwight Howard said that he didn't "see a challenge. We're playing basketball on Christmas. We couldn't help it. If you play on a pretty good team and if you have to play on Christmas, so be it. I enjoy it. I'd rather be playing on Christmas than sitting at home wishing I was playing on Christmas. I like it. I think it's fun."[12]

Lamar Odom called it "a tremendous privilege to be able to entertain the world...playing on TV in those games."[3] In 2010, Knicks Coach Mike D'Antoni said that players should be "very fortunate" to be playing on Christmas Day and that "it helps the league, and...it helps other people on Christmas or on the holidays."[18]

Doug White, an ESPN executive, said that Christmas is "Thanksgiving on the NBA side. Obviously, Christmas Day is a day when everybody is home, everybody is relaxing, and what better way to serve them than with as many games as we possibly can...We try to put on the best games possible that people have interest in."[27] Jermaine O'Neal on the Celtics agreed, saying, "It's special because the whole world is watching. It's Christmas, it's a special day, with everybody together to spend time with each other, as far as family and friends. We have the opportunity to do that, bringing our families down with us. It makes it that much more special—the opportunity to play in front of the rest of the world and be together at Christmas with our family."[26]

During broadcasts of NBA games, commentators and the news media have agreed with White and said that the nature of the games played has made Christmas Day the best day of an NBA regular season. They serve as a preview of a potential series in the playoffs, and perhaps, the finals.[7][22]

Criticism

The Orlando Magic were fined in 2009 after Coach Stan Van Gundy said that the NBA should not be playing on Christmas Day.

In recent years, players and coaches have complained about playing on Christmas Day, saying that takes time away from families.[28] In 2009, Orlando Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy requested that the NBA do not schedule any more games on Christmas Day, saying "I actually feel sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game" and said that the day is best spent with family.[25] The Magic coach was fined for his comments.[28]

In 2010, there were complaints from both sides before the game between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles. Lakers coach Phil Jackson, son of two Christian ministers and author of a book on spiritual growth related to basketball, said, "I don't think anybody should play on Christmas Day" and "it's like Christian holidays don't mean...anything any more."[29] From the Heat, LeBron James said, "if you ask any player in the league, we'd rather be home with our families...It's not just a regular holiday. It's...one of those days that you wish you could wake up in the morning with the kids and open up presents."

Others have managed to voice some discontent while still accepting the Christmas game tradition. Before the game between the Bulls and the Knicks in New York, Coach Mike D'Antoni said, "I can adjust a little bit. I can open my presents up at 7 o'clock at night instead of 7 o'clock in the morning."[18] Raymond Felton said, "you'd rather be with your family. We're still going to celebrate." He, like many players, said that he was fortunate to have played with his family in attendance.[18] Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau said, "I think it's an honor and a privilege to be playing. I know it's tough on the away team, particularly the players who have kids. But that's all part of it."[17] Derrick Rose said, "I'm going to miss my family, and I hate being away from home. But this is my job and it's an honor to be playing on Christmas."[17]

In 2004, the NBA was criticized for scheduling a game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. It was the first time since their brawl that the two teams had faced each other.[30] Such a pairing was unintentional, as the regular season was scheduled before the brawl took place.[30] The other game scheduled that day drew similar criticism. The game between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center marked the first time since the Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Heat that the two teams were facing each other and the first time that Shaq and Kobe Bryant would be facing each other as opponents.[13]

The NBA does not schedule games on Christmas Eve, December 24, to allow players and coaches who have to play on Christmas Day to be with their families.[28] Also families of players and coaches who participate in Christmas games, normally attend the games.[28]

Television ratings

The NBA's Christmas games have garnered some of the highest ratings for any televised regular season NBA game. The TV ratings for the biggest Christmas games are often higher than any NBA game outside of the NBA Finals, and for many U.S. sports fans, Christmas serves as an unofficial "start" to the NBA season; the usual start of the NBA season occurs under relatively little fanfare compared to the NFL or MLB, as those leagues are at the most consequential points of their seasons.

Notes

    References

    1. Schuhmann, John (December 17, 2009). "Knicks, Kobe and more part of Christmas Day lore". NBA.com. Archived from the original on December 2, 2010. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
    2. "Christmas: Three Wise Matchups". NBA.com. December 23, 2007. Archived from the original on September 8, 2009. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
    3. Eisenberg, Jeff (December 24, 2009). "Christmas Tradition". The Riverside (Ca.) Press-Enterprise. p. B1.
    4. "Gasol sparks Lakers' late run to end Celtics' win streak". ESPN. Associated Press. December 25, 2008.
    5. Robinson, Joshua (December 24, 2010). "Agony and Ecstasy on Christmas Day; From a 62-Point Defeat in 1960 to Bernard King's 60 Points in 1984, the Knicks Have Seen It All". Wall Street Journal. p. A23.
    6. "Celtics vs. Raptors - Game Summary - December 25, 2019 - ESPN". ESPN.com. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
    7. "Extra Hype in This Round of James vs. Bryant". The New York Times. Associated Press. December 25, 2010. p. B12.
    8. Nadel, John (December 26, 2008). "Lakers Claim Finals Rematch; Celtics' 19-Game Win Streak Snapped". Washington Post. p. E1. Thursday's victory was the 1,000th for Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, enabling him to become the sixth NBA coach to reach that milestone. The 63-year-old Jackson has a career record of 1,000–423 in 17-plus seasons as coach of the Chicago Bulls and Lakers. He became the fastest to win 1,000 games, surpassing Pat Riley, who did it in 1,434 games.
    9. "Lakers LeBron James passes Kobe Bryant to become NBA's all-time scoring Leader on Christmas". CBS Sports. December 26, 2021. Retrieved December 26, 2021.
    10. Beacham, Greg (December 25, 2011). "Bulls rally to stun Lakers on Rose's winner". Yahoo! Sports. Associated Press. Retrieved December 26, 2011.
    11. Beacham, Greg (December 25, 2010). "LeBron has triple-double, Heat rout Lakers". Yahoo! Sports. Associated Press. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
    12. Garcia, Art (December 21, 2009). "Christmas Day clashes bring back fond memories". NBA.com. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
    13. Sandomir, Richard (December 25, 2004). "ABC Treating O'Neal-Bryant Showdown As Showcase". New York Times. p. D1.
    14. Adande, J.A. (December 25, 2004). "Hosannas or Humbug?; O'Neal hopes for Christmas cheer, but Laker fans may not be in mood". Los Angeles Times. p. D1.
    15. Sandoval, Greg (December 26, 2004). "Shaq Serves Holiday Stuffing; In Rivals' Showdown, Bryant Has 42, But O'Neal Wins". Washington Post. p. E1.
    16. Mahoney, Brian (December 2, 2011). "Magic-Thunder, Clippers-Warriors set for Christmas". ESPN.com. Associated Press. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
    17. Greenstein, Teddy (December 25, 2010). "Bulls don't need a holiday break; Thibodeau, players proud to be chosen for marquee slot". Chicago Tribune. p. 2.1.
    18. Beck, Howard (December 25, 2010). "Feeling Fuzzy About Holiday Slot". New York Times. p. B11. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
    19. Rosenbloom, Steve (November 29, 1998). "Selling Point". Chicago Tribune. p. 1. The NBA told NBC it has canceled the Bulls and the rest of the traditional Christmas doubleheader—Bulls-Knicks and Lakers-Suns.
    20. DuPree, David (December 26, 1995). "Magic ground Rockets 92–90". USA Today. p. 1C.
    21. Hoppes, Lynn (December 17, 2009). "Behind the scenes with Mariah Carey". ESPN.
    22. Mariah Carey NBA Christmas Special 2010 on YouTube
    23. "ESPN, ABC to Simulcast Entire NBA Christmas Day Schedule | Barrett Media". October 17, 2022. Retrieved January 19, 2023.
    24. "CHRISTMAS DAY RECORDS (ACTIVE TEAMS)" (PDF). MediaCentral.NBA.com. NBA Media Ventures, LLC. December 7, 2018. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
    25. "Humbug: Magic's Van Gundy opposed to NBA on Christmas". USAToday.com. Associated Press. December 25, 2009. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
    26. Forsberg, Chris (December 22, 2010). "Doc Rivers likes Christmas games". ESPNBoston.com. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
    27. Finn, Chad (December 24, 2010). "Working holiday for NBA: Five games, but not all in the spirit". The Boston Globe. p. C2.
    28. Reynolds, Tim (December 22, 2010). "Christmas games can be tough on those involved". USAToday.com. Associated Press. Retrieved November 3, 2011.
    29. "Phil Jackson Complains That NBA Schedules Games on Christmas Day". NESN.com. Associated Press. December 22, 2010. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
    30. "Christmas Day rematch 'makes me sick'". ESPN.com. ESPN. December 21, 2004. Retrieved December 22, 2011.

    Bibliography

    • Eisenberg, Jeff (December 24, 2009). "Christmas Tradition". The Riverside (Ca.) Press-Enterprise. p. B1.
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