Top 5 Christmas Day Games in NBA History

The marquee holiday on the NBA calendar is Christmas Day. The league has treated its fans to the gift of basketball every year since 1947, with the lone exception being the strike-shortened 1998 season. In 1947, the New York Knicks and Providence Steamrollers played the first Christmas Day game wym the Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won that game, 89-75.

The Knicks have been featured more than any other team on Christmas Day, going 22-31 in those games. Kobe Bryant has the most games played on Christmas (16), but Dwyane Wade has the most wins (10).

This year, the NBA is treating its fans to a five-game slate, including a Clippers-Lakers matchup that should be the game of the day.

Here’s a look at the five best Christmas Day games in NBA history.

No. 5: New York Knicks vs. New Jersey Nets, 1984

The Knicks have a ton of history on Christmas, but this 1984 game might exemplify that history the most. Forward Bernard King scored a Christmas Day-best 60 points for New York in this one. King made 19 of 30 field goal attempts and 22 of 26 free throws en route to the then-Madison Square Garden scoring record. His output has since been topped by Carmelo Anthony (62), Kobe Bryant (61) and, most recently, James Harden (61). However, his Christmas Day scoring record still stands. The Knicks lost the game to their cross-town rivals, 120-114.

No. 4: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, 2008

This NBA Finals rematch pitted the two best teams in the league at that moment. L.A. entered with a 23-5 record, while Boston sported a league-best 27-2 mark, riding a 19-game winning streak. The Celtics had defeated L.A. in the 2008 Finals 4-2, but Kobe and company would get a measure of revenge by snapping the Cs 19-game run. The Lakers won 92-83 and sent Boston into something of a tailspin. The Celtics would go 2-7 over the next few weeks and would not make it back to the NBA Finals. The Lakers went on to win the 2009 Finals over Orlando, and L.A. would defeat the Celtics in the 2010 Finals, 4-3.

No. 3: Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat, 2011

This Christmas Day game doubled as the league’s opening night following the 2011 lockout. The Heat were forced to watch Dallas raise their championship banner from the previous Finals, where they had upset the heavily favored Heat, 4-2. But once the banner was up, there would be no more celebrating in Big D as LeBron James went supernova. James tallied 37 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals en route to Miami’s 105-94 victory. Dwyane Wade added 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Heat. Miami led by 32 points entering the fourth quarter and would go on to win the 2012 NBA Finals.

No. 2: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat, 2004

The Shaq and Kobe feud came to a head in the summer of ’04. O’Neal was dealt to Miami for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, and a first-round pick. Bryant then signed a seven-year, $136 million extension with L.A. This Christmas Day grudge match marked the first time the two would face off since the split. Miami was the better team that season and on Christmas, winning a 104-102 overtime thriller. Shaq put up 24 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in his return to Tinseltown. O’Neal would foul out in the fourth, but it was Dwyane Wade who led Miami to the win with 29 points and 10 assists. Kobe tallied 42 points but missed a potential game-winner.

No. 1: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, 2016

This Christmas Day game was another Finals rematch, pitting the Warriors against Cleveland trying to avenge their 3-1 2016 Finals collapse. Golden State added Kevin Durant in the offseason, but K.D.’s 36 points weren’t enough to get the win. Cleveland surged back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to steal the victory. LeBron James scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, but it was Kyrie Irving, reprising his role from the previous Finals, who netted the game-winning jumper with 3.4 seconds left. Cleveland won, 109-108, but the Warriors would get their revenge in the 2017 Finals with a 4-1 victory.

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