A Brief History of NBA Games on Christmas Day

A Brief History of NBA Games on Christmas Day

The NBA began playing games on Christmas Day back in 1947, when the Baltimore Bullets beat the Chicago Stags 87-70. Since then, the league has dominated Christmas Day action and will have five games on Christmas in 2023. What follows are some highlights and history of the NBA’s games on Christmas.

One of the best individual games in the NBA’s Christmas Day history came in 1961. While the Philadelphia Warriors lost to the New York Knicks 136-135 in double overtime, Wilt Chamberlain scored 59 points and grabbed an astounding 36 rebounds. That’s still a record for rebounds on Christmas Day and was the NBA single-game record for 23 years.

In 1984, Bernard King scored 60 points, a Christmas Day record. Unfortunately, his Knicks lost to the New Jersey Nets 120-114.

The next year in 1985, the Knicks turned things around, beating the Boston Celtics 113-104 in double overtime. Rookie Patrick Ewing had 32 points and 11 rebounds as New York rallied from a 25-point deficit. It was one of the biggest upsets of the 1985-86 season as the Knicks finished 23-59 and the Celtics went 67-15 and won the NBA title.

In 1995, the NBA put a finals rematch on the schedule. The Orlando Magic defeated the Houston Rockets 92-90. Magic star Shaquille O’Neal had 22 points, 18 rebounds and five assists, while Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon had 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

In 2004, we got another titanic matchup as Shaq and Kobe Bryant went toe-to-toe for the first time. O’Neal’s Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers 104-102 in overtime. While Bryant scored 42 points, O’Neal had 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade has 29 points and 10 assists.

In 2008, a massive rivalry took over Christmas Day. A rematch of the 2007 NBA Finals, the Celtics entered the game with a 19-game win streak. The Lakers put an end to that, winning 92-83 as head coach Phil Jackson notched his 1,000th career win.

In 2010, LeBron James had his first Christmas Day game since joining the Heat. He didn’t disappoint, notching a triple-double (27 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) in a 96-80 win over the Lakers. He became just the fourth player to have a triple-double on Christmas.

In 2016, the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers were down 14 points early in the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors. No matter, they dominated down the stretch and scored a 109-108 win on a turnaround jumper by Kyrie Irving with 3.4 seconds left. Kevin Durant had 36 points in the loss, while LeBron had 31 points and 13 rebounds.

The Cavs and Warriors faced off again on Christmas Day in 2017. The game was tight and a late 11-2 run by Cleveland tied the game, but a late 3-pointer from Klay Thompson with 1:33 left broke a 92-92 tie. The Warriors won 99-92. Kevin Love had 31 points and 18 rebounds for the Cavs, while the Warriors got 25 points from Durant and 24 from Thompson.

Those are just a few of the classics we’ve seen on Christmas Day in the past. Here’s hoping someone joins the list of all-time great performances this year.

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