The NBA began playing games on Christmas Day in 1947. This year marks the 69th time with NBA games on the holiday. Here is a look at some memorable moments from NBA Christmases past.
Wilt Chamberlain scored 59 points and grabbed 36 rebounds but his Philadelphia Warriors lost to the New York Knicks 136-135 in double overtime. The rebounding total remains a Christmas record and the scoring total was a Christmas record for 23 years.
Nate “Tiny” Archibald of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings equaled a Christmas Day record with 18 assists in a 104-99 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1972. Archibald’s performance was part of a season in which he became the first player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring and assists. The Hall of Famer remains the only player to accomplish the feat, but Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and James Harden of the Houston Rockets rank among the league leaders in both categories this season. Westbrook will play against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Christmas Day this year.
The greatest individual scoring performance in Christmas Day history came in 1984, when Hall of Fame forward Bernard King of the New York Knicks scored 60 points in a 120-114 loss to the New Jersey Nets. King became the third player to score at least 50 points on Christmas, joining Wilt Chamberlain (59 points in 1961) and Rick Barry (50 points in 1966).
Rookie Patrick Ewing (32 points, 11 rebounds) and the New York Knicks rallied from a 25-point deficit to stun the mighty Boston Celtics 113-104 in double overtime. This was a massive upset as the rebuilding Knicks finished the season 23-59 under current ESPN analyst Hubie Brown and the Celtics went 67-15 en route to winning the NBA championship. New York and Boston will meet on Christmas Day this year.
Patrick Ewing’s put-back at the buzzer gave the New York Knicks an 86-85 victory over the Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan scored 30 points in his first Christmas Day appearance.
With Michael Jordan in retirement, Scottie Pippen powered the Chicago Bulls to a 107-104 overtime win against the New York Knicks. Pippen played all 53 minutes and had 36 points, 16 rebounds and five steals. He scored all seven of Chicago’s points in overtime and blocked two last-second shots to seal the victory.
For the first time in NBA history, the teams from the previous season’s Finals met on Christmas Day the next season. Penny Hardaway scored 22 points, including the game-winning shot with three seconds left, as the Orlando Magic defeated the defending champion Houston Rockets 92-90. In a matchup of star centers, Orlando’s Shaquille O’Neal had 22 points, 18 rebounds and five assists and Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon notched 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Tracy McGrady outdueled rookie phenom LeBron James to lead the Orlando Magic past the Cleveland Cavaliers 113-101 in overtime. McGrady finished with 41 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. James dazzled in his Christmas Day debut, finishing with 34 points and six assists.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal meet for the first time since Shaq’s trade to the Miami Heat the previous offseason. The matchup lived up to expectations as the Heat extended its winning streak to 11 games with a 104-102 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, overcoming Bryant’s 42 points behind double-doubles from O’Neal (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (29 points, 10 assists).
In a rematch of the previous season’s Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers snapped the defending champion Boston Celtics’ 19-game winning streak with a 92-83 victory. Phil Jackson recorded his 1,000th victory, the sixth coach at the time to reach the milestone.
In his first Christmas Day game with the Miami Heat, LeBron James recorded a triple-double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 96-80 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. James is one of five players with a triple-double on Christmas Day, along with Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek, Billy Cunningham and Russell Westbrook.
Photo from Complex.com