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John Schuhmann

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When the Knicks and Heat meet on Christmas Day, it will mark New York's 45th Christmas Day game.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Knicks, Kobe and more part of Christmas Day lore


Posted Dec 17 2009 10:18AM

It's a Wonderful Life premiered in December of 1946. A year later, another Christmas tradition was born.

The NBA began playing games on Christmas Day in 1947, the league's second season. In the 62 years since, there have been 202 games on Christmas Day. The lockout season of 1998-99 is the only season in which at least one game wasn't played on Christmas. This year, there are five more games to keep you away from your new toys and in front of the TV.

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To get you ready, here's just about everything you need to know about the history of Christmas games.

Teams

• The Knicks played on that first day of Christmas games in 1947, beating the Providence Steam Rollers 89-75 at the old Madison Square Garden. New York has played in 44 Christmas games total (the most of any franchise), and 37 of the 44 have been at home. They host the Heat on Christmas this year.

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• The last time the Knicks played on Christmas was in 2001, and current Heat guard Carlos Arroyo was on the opposing team then as well. Arroyo played four minutes for the Raptors in a 102-94 defeat. Current ABC analyst Mark Jackson, at the age of 36, came one rebound shy of a triple-double in that game.

• There's no place like home (court) for the holidays. Home teams are 134-68 in Christmas games, a winning percentage of .663. That's better than the overall winning percentage for home teams in the regular season (0.605) or the playoffs (0.657) since 1992. The home team has won nine of the 11 Christmas Day games over the last four years.

• Of teams that have played at least three Christmas Day games, the Portland Trail Blazers, who host the Nuggets this year, have the best record. They're 13-2, with 14 of their 15 games having been played at home.

• The Seattle SuperSonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder, have by far the worst record in Christmas Day history: 0-11. Every other team that has played at least four Christmas Day games has at least one win.

• Three current franchises have never played on Christmas Day: Charlotte, Memphis and Minnesota.

• When the Celtics play in Orlando this Christmas, it will be Boston's 26th Christmas Day game. Only one of the 26 was in Boston.

• Of the 10 teams playing this Christmas, the Clippers have gone the longest since their last Christmas Day appearance. They last played on Christmas in 1992, when they lost at home to the Spurs. L.A.'s leading scorer in that game was Ken Norman.

• The current franchise that has gone the longest without playing on Christmas is the Bucks, who last played on Christmas in 1977, when they beat the Kings in Kansas City.

• Last year, the pace of the five Christmas Day games (90.5 possessions per 48 minutes) was a lot slower than the average pace of games last season (94.1). And the offensive efficiency (98.4 points scored per 100 possessions) was much worse than league's efficiency over the course of the season (105.4).

• Five games on Christmas may seem like a lot, but there have been more. There were seven games in 1949, 1971 and 1977 and six games in 1970 and 1976. There were only 17 teams in the league in 1949, so only three of them had Christmas Day off.

Players

• Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal are the active leaders in Christmas Day games, having played in 11 each. That's more Christmas Day appearances than 17 of the 30 current franchises. Derek Fisher (7) is the only other active player who has played in roughly half that many Christmas Day games.

• Bryant has played more games on Dec. 25 than he has on any other date on the calendar. There are only three dates on the calendar that Shaq has played more games than he has on Christmas: March 12 (12), March 15 (12) and March 26 (13).

• Shaq and Kobe played five Christmas games together (they went 2-3) and two against each other (not including 2006 when Shaq missed the Lakers-Heat matchup with an injury). So when the Cavs and Lakers meet in L.A. this year, the two will have shared the spotlight eight times on Christmas. Shaq has won both head-to-head matchups, but that's was back when he was with Miami.

• In Bryant's first Christmas Day game as a rookie in 1996, he had more fouls (one) than points (zero).

• Bryant has nine Christmas Day 3-pointers on 45 attempts from downtown. Steve Nash has 10 (tied with Scottie Pippen as the all-time leader) on 16 attempts.

• Pippen was undefeated (7-0) in Christmas Day games, including two games (1993 and 1994) during Michael Jordan's first retirement. In that second game without Jordan, Pippen had 36 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, five steals and two blocks, playing all 53 minutes of an overtime win over the Knicks in Chicago.

• Jordan played in just six Christmas Day games. He lost the first one in New York in 1986, but won the other five, all at home. He had somewhat below-normal numbers on Christmas: 28.3 ppg, 44.3 percent shooting, 1-for-11 from 3-point range. His Christmas high was 42 points in a win over the Knicks in 1992.

• Oscar Robertson is the all-time leader in Christmas Day points (377) and assists (145 -- more than twice the total of anyone else). In 12 Christmas Day games, he averaged 31.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 12.1 assists.

• Tracy McGrady has the fifth-highest Christmas Day point total and the highest since Bernard King's record 60 points in 1984. McGrady had 46 for the Magic in a win over the Pistons in 2002. He has topped that total 11 times in his career (his career high is 62), but his 18 free throws that day are the most he's ever made in a game.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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