Games held by the NBA on Christmas Day have turned into a tradition for a lot of fans over the years. The 70th edition of the NBA on Christmas Day will tip off on Monday.
The first NBA game played on December 25 came in 1947, league’s second season, when the New York Knicks beat the Providence Steamrollers 89–75. Since then, the NBA has played games every year on Christmas Day except 1998, when a lockout canceled half the season. Currently, five games are played on Christmas, one matchup usually features a rematch of the previous season’s NBA Finals, while two or three of the other games feature matchups of teams who met in the playoffs or competed for playoff seeds during the previous season.
This year, the league will showcase it’s flashiest names. James Harden, Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Lonzo Ball will all shine on Monday. First Sixers at Knicks, followed by Finals rematch Cavaliers at Warriors. Wizards at Celtics in the third game, followed by Rockets at Thunder, and last but not least Timberwolves at Lakers. In all five games, the teams will be meeting for the first time this season.
So to get you ready for Monday’s festivities, here are some numbers highlighting the NBA on Christmas Day. Enjoy.
Tracy McGrady only played in three Christmas Day games. But he made the most of each and every opportunity that he had to play on December 25. He scored 40-plus points in all three games and finished his career with a 43.3 points per game average, the highest Christmas Day scoring average in NBA history.
Kobe Bryant owns the record for most games played on Christmas Day (16). Dolph Schayes, Earl Monroe, and Shaquille O’Neal each played in 13 Christmas Day classics. In 2012, Bryant also became the all-time Christmas Day leading scorer, with 395 points, followed by Oscar Robertson (377), Dwyane Wade (301), LeBron James (301), and O’Neal (272).
From all-time leaders to best single-game performances. Bernard King holds the record for most points scored in a Christmas Day game. Hall of Fame forward dropped 60 in 1984 and became just the 10th NBA player in the history of the league to score 60 or more points in a game. Kevin Durant owns the highest-scoring game among active players, recording 44 points in 2010.
Wilt Chamberlain had a festive night in 1961 when he grabbed 36 rebounds and set a Christmas Day record that still stands. Guy Rodgers and Nate “Tiny” Archibald are tied for the most assists in a single-game with 18, recorded in 1966 and 1972, respectively. In 2011, DeAndre Jordan broke Elvin Hayes’ 31-year-old record when he blocked eight shots. Kyrie Irving set the record for most steals in a game (7) last season.
Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek, Bill Cunningham, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook are the only players to record triple-doubles during Christmas Day games. They’ve recorded a total of eight triple-doubles, and four of them were recorded by Robertson, who put up triple-doubles in 1960, 1961, 1963, and 1967.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have each recorded exactly 301 points and 76 assists on Christmas, the active leaders in both. Wade will aim to win on Christmas for the 11th time, which would extend his NBA record.
Doc Rivers and Phil Jackson have participated on Christmas Day as both player and coach. Rivers played with the Knicks and coached Celtics and Clippers. Phil Jackson participated in 26 Christmas Day games, played also with the Knicks and coached Bulls and Lakers. Jackson also won the 1,000th game of his career during a Christmas Day game in 2008.
Since taking part in the first game back in 1947, the Knicks have played the most NBA Christmas Day games, 51 times. They are 22–29 on the holiday. Their 22 wins are tied for most by a team on Christmas Day (also the Lakers). Their 29 losses are the most too.
The Celtics don’t always play on Christmas Day, but when they do, they just about always play on the road. Of the Celtics’ 30 previous games on Christmas, 28 were on the road and two were at a neutral site. This year Boston will play a home game on Christmas Day for the first time.
The Miami Heat have the best records on Christmas at 10-2, which means they’ve won 83 percent of their Christmas Day games. It’s the highest Christmas Day winning percentage in league history. On the other end, The Thunder/Seattle Sonics franchise has one of the worst records on Christmas Day. The Thunder enter this year’s game with a 4-13 record on December 25.
There are NBA teams who haven’t played in a Christmas Day game in years now. For example, the Hawks haven’t taken part in a Christmas Day game since 1989 and the Bucks last suited up on Christmas in 1977. But they’re still better than the Hornets and the Grizzlies, who have never played a game on Christmas Day.