Schedule Release '17 | Sixers, Knicks to Clash on Christmas

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

If there’s been one consistent quality to emerge in respect to modern day NBA scheduling, it’s that rarely do teams wind up playing on Christmas Day by accident.

Over the years, the league has smartly used the customarily housebound holiday to showcase its highest-profile nationally-televised games. Along with giving gifts and unwrapping presents, subplots like Finals rematches, longstanding rivalries, and one-on-one superstar showdowns dominate the day. 

While the 76ers, historically, have been no strangers to playing on December 25th, the club hasn’t done so in 17 years. Thursday, however, the same day it was announced the Sixers will be featured in the NBA London Game 2018, the league also revealed Joel Embiid and Co. will spend part of their Christmas at Madison Square Garden, battling the Knicks in a 12 p.m. matinee to be broadcast by ESPN.

Why put the Atlantic Division match-up on such a prominent stage, given that both teams have been re-tooling in recent years? There could be a couple elements at work here.  

First, the Sixers and Knicks are long-time foes, each hailing from sizable, passionate NBA markets.

Second, New York playing on Christmas, especially at The Garden, has become tradition, of sorts. No franchise in NBA history has ever made more appearances on the holiday than the Knicks, which have been busy on Christmas 51 times (22-29).

There’s also the Carmelo Anthony factor. Despite his struggles in New York, the 33-year old Brooklyn native and 10-time All-Star remains a popular name in the league.

The most compelling case to shine the Christmas Day spotlight on the Sixers and Knicks, though, could be made by combining a little bit of Column A (rivalry, big markets), with the fact that both teams are building around intriguing young cores. The Sixers’ roster, for instance, features blue-chip prospects Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, and Ben Simmons. New York, meanwhile, boast lottery picks Frank Ntilikina and Kristaps Porzingis.

So, there certainly are valid reasons for the NBA and ESPN to have been interested in airing a Christmas clash between the Sixers and Knicks, hoping, perhaps, to use the telecast to introduce a large audience to a handful of the league’s new, youthful faces.

As it turns out, the Sixers have an extensive track record of playing New York on Christmas. Ten of the Sixers’ all-time Christmas outings have come against the Knicks. They’ve gone 6-4 in these games, while posting a 4-4 record in December 25th stops at MSG.

To find the last time the Sixers and Santa overlapped schedules, you’d have to go all the way back to 2001, the year Allen Iverson led the Sixers returned to Los Angeles to face the Lakers for the first time since the Finals. Before then, the Sixers had gone 13 seasons without a Christmas Day game on their schedule.

But from the late 1960s through mid-1980s, when post-season berths were regular thing for the Sixers, the team routinely landed on the NBA’s Christmas docket. The Sixers, in fact, are tied with the Sacramento Kings for the fifth-most Christmas Day assignments ever, with 29 (New York has 51, the Los Angeles Lakers 42, Detroit Pistons 32, and Boston Celtics 30).

Below, check out a list of the 29 Christmas Day games the Sixers have played, and corresponding box score links to each one.

2001: 88-82 L @ Lakers

• Allen Iverson 31 pts

1988: 125-110 W vs. Bullets

• Charles Barkley 25 pts, 3 reb

1987: 106-100 L vs. Hawks

• Barkley 22 pts, 7 reb

1986: 102-97 L vs. Bullets

Cliff Robinson 28 pts, 9 reb

1984: 109-108 W @ Pistons

• Moses Malone 28 pts, 15 reb, 2 blk

• Andrew Toney 22 pts, 11 reb

1979: 95-92 W @ Bullets

• Julius Erving 17 pts

1978: 109-94 W @ Knicks

Erving 22 pts

1977: 113-110 L @ Knicks

• George McGinnis 31 pts

• Erving 20 pts

1976: 105-104 W @ Knicks

• World B. Free 30 pts

• McGinnis 20 pts, 10 reb

1975: 113-103 W @ Knicks

• Doug Collins 30 pts

• McGinnis 29 pts, 10 reb

1974: 104-97 W @ Knicks

Steve Mix 19 pts, 13 reb

• Billy Cunningham 19 pts, 10 reb

1971: 117-114 L vs. Bullets

• Cunningham 29 pts

1970: 105-100 W vs. Pistons

• Hal Greer 28 pts

1969: 121-113 L @ Bullets

• Cunningham 41 pts (franchise Christmas Day scoring record), 18 fgm

1968: 110-109 L @ Knicks

• Greer 34 pts

• Cunningham 31 pts

1967: 108-105 W @ Bullets

• Wilt Chamberlain 15 pts, 25 reb (lone Christmas Day appearance for Sixers)

• Cunningham 27 pts

• Greer 27 pts

*** Syracuse Nationals era ***

1962: 123-111 W @ Knicks

• Greer 28 pts

• Lee Shaffer 31 pts

1961: 127-122 L vs. Celtics

• Dave Gambee 28 pts

1960: 162-100 W vs. Knicks

• Gambee 24 pts

• Greer 24 pts

1959: 129-121 L @ Warriors

• Dolph Schayes 19 pts, 14 reb

1957: 134-130 OT W vs. Knicks

• Schayes 33 pt, 15 reb, 9 ast

1956: 98-93 L @ Royals

1955: 111-96 W vs. Royals

• Red Kerr 20 pts

1954: 109-101 L @ Knicks

• Schayes 30 pts

1953: 89-80 L @ Knicks

1952: 102-92 W vs. Bullets

1951: 70-65 W @ Hawks

1950: 81-69 W vs. Pistons

1949: 94-88 W vs. Packers