Christmas Day 2021

The history of NBA games on Christmas Day

From Wilt Chamberlain's 59-point, 36-rebound eruption in 1961 to Kyrie Irving's game-winner in 2016, relive some classic Christmas Day performances.

As we close in on Christmas Day, we look back on some of the greatest Christmas Day performances in NBA lore.

NBA.com/Christmas

The 2021-22 campaign will mark the 74th edition of the NBA on Christmas Day. The league began playing Christmas games in 1947, and will feature five games on the holiday.

This season’s slate of Christmas games features veteran superstars and some emerging young talent as the NBA takes center stage on national television. Below are this year’s matchups:


Standout Christmas Day games past

Listen in as Paul George and the Clippers took on the Lakers in a 2019 Christmas Day game.

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

On Christmas Day 1984, Bernard King set a record for points scored on that holiday when he piled up 60 vs. the Nets.

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

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal meet for the first time since Shaq’s trade to the Miami Heat the previous offseason.

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

Phil Jackson gets his 1,000th career win with a Christmas Day win against the Celtics.

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

In his first Christmas Day game with the Miami Heat, LeBron James recorded a triple-double against the Lakers.

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

On Christmas Day 2016, Kyrie Irving nailed a clutch shot to seal Cleveland's win vs. Golden State.

2017: Warriors beat Cavs in thriller — The third straight Warriors-Cavs showdown on Christmas Day was a thrilling one, to be sure. After the Cavs rallied to tie the game late with an 11-2 run with roughly three minutes left in the game, the Warriors took the spotlight. Klay Thompson stepped up and knocked down a clutch 3-pointer with 1:33 left to break a 92-92 tie.

 


Top scoring performances, Christmas Day history
Points Player Year Matchup
60 Bernard King 1984 Knicks vs. Nets
59 Wilt Chamberlain 1961 Warriors vs. Knicks
50 Rick Barry 1966 Warriors vs. Royals
47 Jerry West 1963 Lakers vs. Knicks
46 Tracy McGrady 2002 Magic vs. Pistons

 

Top rebounding performances, Christmas Day history
Rebounds Player Year Matchup
36 Wilt Chamberlain 1961 Warriors vs. Knicks
34 Bill Russell 1965 Celtics vs. Bullets
34 Wilt Chamberlain 1959 Warriors vs. Nats
33 Bill Russell 1958 Celtics vs. Knicks
31 Bill Russell 1964 Celtics vs. Pistons

 

Top assist performances, Christmas Day history
Assists Player Year Matchup
18 Nate Archibald 1972 Bucks vs. Kings
18 Guy Rodgers 1966 Bulls vs. Knicks
17 Oscar Robertson 1961 Royals vs. Lakers
16 Nate Archibald 1975 Kings vs. Suns
16 Oscar Robertson 1965 Royals vs. Warriors

 

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