The NBA on Christmas Day is a league staple. Every year on Christmas, the NBA showcases multiple marquee matchups for basketball fans all around the world. To get ready for this year’s holiday action, I wanted to put together a list of the five greatest Christmas Day basketball games of all time.
Here we go!
#5 | New York Knicks vs Chicago Bulls (1994)
This was the Bulls’ first Christmas Day game after Michael Jordan’s first retirement. Jordan was off taking BP to get ready for minor league baseball in the spring of 1995. This made the Bulls very vulnerable against a great defensive team like the 1994 Knicks. This game ended up going into overtime, but the Bulls still found a way to win.
Scottie Pippen put Chicago on his back all night on the team’s home court. Pippen shot 11 of 28 from the field and dropped 36 points in the Bulls 3-point victory over New York. Patrick Ewing scored 30 points for the Knicks, but it wasn’t enough as his team was defeated 107-104.
#4 | New York Knicks vs Chicago Bulls (1986)
The New York Knicks got the best of the Chicago Bulls in 1986 by a score of 86-85. This was a fantastic contest and a big upset. New York was 7-21 when they took down the Bulls on Christmas Day. The Bulls weren’t spectacular, but they were .500 and favorites going into this game.
This was the first meeting between Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing. These two figures would come to dominate the league for years to come after they dazzled fans in their first matchup against each other. This game was defined by defense. Michael Jordan dropped 30 of the team’s 85 points. Ewing contributed 28 points for the Knicks.
Ewing made the game winner to seal the deal for the Knicks. He grabbed a rebound and put it back up at the buzzer to give his team the victory over MJ and the Bulls. The Knick’s shocking the basketball world has to be a top five game on anyone’s all time Christmas Day list.
#3 | Miami Heat vs Los Angeles Lakers (2010)
Just over 19,000 people filled the STAPLES Center to watch two of the best teams in basketball compete on Christmas Day in 2010. The Heat won this game with ease by a score of 98-80. It wasn’t the most competitive game ever on Christmas Day, but the storyline was what made it special.
2010 was the first year that LeBron James had left Cleveland to go form the “Big 3” with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade. The basketball world hated LeBron James for his decision to leave Cleveland, but he took the opportunity to go win a guaranteed title with this superstar lineup.
The Heat had been playing well up to this point in 2010. They were 23-9 and took a flight across the country to battle the Lakers who were 21-9. People wanted to see LeBron fail on the national stage, but this didn’t occur. James put on a show and played with a level of grit that fans hadn’t seen all year. James’ 27 points and 10 assists put the Heat on cruise control to grab an easy holiday win over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
#2 | New York Knicks vs Boston Celtics (1985)
The New York vs Boston rivalry is unlike anything else in all of sports. In 1985, the Knicks were not a good team in the NBA. They entered Christmas Day as a massive underdog to the Celtics with a record of 10-19. The Celtics were 21-7 and playing great basketball going into the holiday.
Patrick Ewing, who has put together some great performances on Christmas Day, was a rookie in 1985. He had not established himself in the NBA at this point in time, but he catapulted himself to the forefront of the league during this matchup in 1985. The Knicks beat the Celtics 113-104. It took New York two overtimes to upset Boston, but they found a way to get the job done.
In the second overtime, the Knicks ran away with the game outscoring Boston 13-7. Larry Bird scored 23 points inside Madison Square Garden, but he was outplayed by Ewing. Ewing shot 54.2% from the field and dropped 32 points. He also grabbed 11 rebounds to give himself a double-double on the night.
#1 | Miami Heat vs Los Angeles Lakers (2004)
It took one overtime period for the Heat to beat the Lakers on the road in 2004 on Christmas Day. This was a phenomenal game that showcased some of the best talent in the NBA at the time. Miami defeated Los Angeles by a score of 104-102.
The stat that made the ultimate difference in this game was the turnover margin. The Lakers had 16 more turnovers than Miami which gave them just enough opportunities to win this instant classic.
The storyline in this game was even better than the action inside the STAPLES Center. This was Shaquille O’Neal’s debut in Los Angeles as a competitor. There had been some drama between Kobe Bryant and O’Neal which people believed to be the reason he departed for Miami. Fans wanted to see the two fight before the game, but this didn’t happen.
The stars were courteous during shootaround, but they competed ruthlessly right from the opening tip. Kobe Bryant had one of the best Christmas Day games of all time. The legend scored 42 points and almost single-handedly led the Lakers to victory. Although, the Heat proved to be too much for Los Angeles. Dwayne Wade’s 29-point scoring effort and O’Neal’s double-double gave the Lakers the 2-point win in OT.
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