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Kobe Bryant (left) and Kevin Durant have quite the differing history when it comes to Christmas games.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Little-known stats abound for Christmas hoops marathon

Posted Dec 23 2010 11:32AM

Despite Phil Jackson's protests, the NBA's five-game schedule on Christmas Day will go on. Jackson's Lakers host the Heat in the marquee matchup at 5 p.m. ET on ABC, but there's no reason to turn your TV off between noon and 1 a.m. Saturday.

Though this is just the third time in the last 30 years that there have been as many as five games, the NBA is as much a Christmas tradition as midnight mass or A Christmas Story marathons. And no player or coach has been a bigger part of that tradition than Jackson. Here are the numbers behind some familiar faces and uniforms when it comes to Christmas hoops.

Phil Jackson

This is Jackson's 32nd season in the NBA (12 as a player, 20 as a coach) with Saturday's game marking the 26th time he's participated in a Christmas game. So, it's understandable that Jackson might want the holiday off for a change. But he shouldn't ever complain about holiday travel.

Phil Jackson's Christmas History
Team Home Away W L
New York (Player) 8 0 6 2
Chicago (Coach) 7 0 7 0
L.A. Lakers (Coach) 8 2 4 6

Of the 26 Christmas games for Jackson, he's been on the home team for 24 of those. The two times he was the visitor, he got to spend Christmas in sunny Miami as part of the Kobe-Shaq rivalry in 2005 and 2006.

Kobe Bryant

5 W, 7 L, 25.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 5.7 apg, 38.8 FG%, 20.8 3P%

Bryant has played more games on Dec. 25 than he has on any other calendar date. This year, both Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal will tie Johnny Green, Earl Monroe and Dolph Schayes for the most Christmas games played (13).

Bryant's 304 points on Christmas are second all-time, 73 short of tying Oscar Robertson's mark (377). He'd be closer if he didn't shoot so poorly. Bryant was 11-for-33 in last year's loss to the Cavs and 28-for-77 in his previous three Christmas Day games against the Heat -- all of which were losses.

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

Shaquille O'Neal

6W, 6 L, 22.5 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 2.7 apg, 53.6 FG%

Shaq is as much a Christmas tradition as Kobe, but he comes in different colors. The Celtics are the sixth different team the Diesel has played for, and the Magic will be the ninth different opponent he's faced on Christmas. This is actually the 14th Christmas game Shaq's teams have participated in, but he missed the Heat's 2006 matchup with the Lakers with an injury.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

James: 3 W, 1 L, 25.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 8.3 apg, 46.8 FG%, 27.3 3P%

Wade: 4 W, 1 L, 27.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 7.8 apg, 45.0 FG%, 2-for-3 3PT

The Heat's stars don't have as much experience on Christmas as Bryant (or Derek Fisher, who's third among active players with eight Christmas games played), but they've each been more successful.

James lost in Orlando his rookie year, but has won on Christmas each of the last three seasons, including a 102-87 win over the Lakers last year. Wade has three Christmas victories over the Lakers and his only Christmas loss came to James' Cavs in 2007.

The Knicks

No franchise has played in more Christmas games than New York. It played in one of the first Christmas games in 1947 (beating the Providence Steam Rollers 89-75 at the old Madison Square Garden), and will be making its 46th Christmas appearance.

Franchises with Most Christmas Games
Team Gms W L Home Away
New York 45 20 25 38 7
L.A. Lakers 36 20 16 19 17
Detroit 32 10 22 8 24
Philadelphia 29 16 13 13 16
Sacramento 29 18 11 24 5

Including this year's game against the Bulls, 39 of the Knicks' 46 Christmas games have been at home. But they haven't taken advantage of all those home games -- they're 19-19 in New York and 1-6 on the road.

The Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers probably aren't the first NBA team you think of when it comes to Christmas games, but no team has been better on the holiday. Of franchises that have played at least three Christmas games, Portland has the best record at 14-2. After losing their first Christmas game to the Bulls in 1971, the Blazers won 13 straight.

The Blazers have benefitted from plenty of home cooking on Christmas. When they visit the Warriors on Saturday, it will be their 17th Christmas game overall, but just their second on the road. It will be the sixth meeting between the Blazers and Warriors on Christmas, with the previous five all in Portland (and all Blazer wins).

The Thunder

Saturday's game against the Denver Nuggets (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) will be the first Christmas game for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but not for the Thunder franchise. When they take the floor, Kevin Durant and Co. will have some dubious history to overcome.

The Seattle Supersonics were 0-11 on Christmas Day, the only franchise to play at least four Christmas games without a win. The Sonics were 0-2 on Christmas in Seattle and 0-9 on the road. Their last Christmas game, an 89-79 loss in Portland in 2007, saw Kevin Durant score 23 points on 8-for-20 shooting.

The Road Green

When the Celtics visit the Magic (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC), it will be Boston's 27th Christmas Day game. Only one of the 27, a win over the Pistons in 1964, was in Boston.

More Christmas Day Facts:

• Tracy McGrady's Christmas Day scoring average of 43.3 points is by far the highest in NBA history. McGrady has played in three Christmas games (all with Orlando from 2000-03) and cracked the 40-point mark each time. McGrady's 46 points against the Pistons n 2002 is the fifth-highest scoring mark in Christmas history.

• Bernard King's 60 points against the Nets in 1984 is the all-time mark. Second best is Wilt Chamberlain's 59 in 1961. But both of those performances came in losses. King's Knicks lost to the Nets 120-114 and Chamberlain's Philadelphia Warriors lost to the Knicks 136-135 in double overtime.

• The most points scored in a win on Christmas Day was 50, by Rick Barry, whose San Francisco Warriors beat the Cincinnati Royals 124-122 in 1966.

• Saturday's game in New York will be the Bulls' first Christmas game since Michael Jordan last wore the red and black. But Golden State is ending a longer Christmas drought -- they last played on Christmas in 1984.

• Three franchises that have never played on Christmas Day? Charlotte, Memphis and Minnesota.

• Five games on Christmas may seem like a lot, but there have been more. There were seven games in 1949, '71 and '77 and six games in '70 and '76. There were 17 teams in the league in '49, so only three of them had Christmas Day off.

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

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