The history of NBA games on Christmas Day
The 2019-20 campaign will mark the 72nd edition of the NBA on Christmas Day. The league began playing Christmas games in 1947, and will feature five games on the holiday for the sixth straight year.
This season’s slate of Christmas games features the four most recent Kia Most Valuable Players (Giannis Antetokoumpo, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry), three of the four conference finalists from 2019, and the No.1 pick of the 2019 Draft (Zion Williamson). The full slate of games is as follows:
Celtics vs. Raptors (Noon ET, ESPN): A new-look Boston team led by four-time All-Star Kemba Walker visits Pascal Siakam and the defending champions in Toronto.
Bucks vs. 76ers (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC): Antetokounmpo, the reigning Kia MVP, takes on a stacked starting lineup led by Joel Embiid in Philadelphia.
Rockets vs. Warriors (5 p.m. ET, ABC): Five-time conference champion Golden State plays host to a familiar playoff rival in James Harden and the Houston Rockets, who traded Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook.
Clippers vs. Lakers (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/ABC): The battle in L.A. begins in earnest as LeBron James and Anthony Davis take on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in an ultimate clash of superstar duos.
Pelicans vs. Nuggets (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Williamson makes his rookie Christmas Day debut against top-three Kia MVP finisher Nikola Jokic and the rising Nuggets.
More on NBA Christmas games
From the Chicago Stags and Providence Steamrollers in 1947 through the Warriors and Lakers in 2019, the NBA has seen magnificent performances highlight the Christmas slate. Here are a few standout games:
1961: Chamberlain dominates in defeat — 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 Day record and the scoring total was a record for 23 years. | Box score
1972: Archibald runs wild vs. Bucks — Nate “Tiny” Archibald of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings equaled a Christmas Day record with 18 assists (and 20 points) in a 104-99 loss to the Bucks. 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. | Box score
1984: King goes for 60 — In the greatest individual scoring performance in Christmas Day history, Hall of Fame forward Bernard King finished with 60 points in the Knicks’ 120-114 loss to the (then-)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). | Box score | Highlights
1985: Ewing, Knicks stun Celtics — Rookie Patrick Ewing (32 points, 11 rebounds) and the Knicks rallied from a 25-point deficit to stun the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics 113-104 in double overtime. The Knicks finished the season 23-59 and the Celtics went 67-15 en route to winning the NBA championship. | Box score
1995: A Finals rematch — 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 featuring 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. | Box score
2004: Shaq vs. Kobe — O’Neal and Kobe Bryant met 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 their win streak to 11 games with a 104-102 overtime victory against the Lakers. Behind double-doubles from O’Neal (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (29 points, 10 assists), Miami overcame Bryant’s 42 points. | Box score | Highlights
2008: Celtics’ win streak snapped — In a rematch of the 2007 Finals, the Lakers snapped the defending-champion Celtics’ 19-game winning streak with a 92-83 victory. Lakers coach Phil Jackson notched his 1,000th win, the fastest to do so and the sixth coach at the time to reach that milestone. | Box score | Highlights
2010: James joins exclusive club — In his first Christmas Day game with the Heat, LeBron James recorded a triple-double (27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists) in a 96-80 victory against the Lakers. James became the fourth player to register a triple-double on Christmas Day, joining Robertson, John Havlicek and Billy Cunningham. (Russell Westbrook added his name to the list in 2013 and Draymond Green did so in 2017). | Box score | Highlights
2016: Cavaliers stage epic comeback — The first matchup between the defending-champion Cavaliers and the runner-up Warriors since their thrilling 2015 Finals featured even more drama. Down 14 points early in the fourth quarter in Cleveland, the Cavaliers rallied to defeat the Warriors 109-108. Kyrie Irving made the game-winning turnaround jump shot with 3.4 seconds left to spoil Kevin Durant’s 36-point effort for Golden State. LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 31 points and 13 rebounds. | Box score | Highlights