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Ranking the 10 best Christmas Day performances in NBA history

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Christmas Day is one of the most exciting in the NBA calendar. The best players in the league may miss some family time during the holidays but some of the best NBA Christmas performances we have witnessed are simply unforgettable.

The NBA makes the holiday season even more fun, and, in this article, we will present you with some evidence for that.

Best NBA Christmas performances

This season will mark 75 years since the NBA made the Christmas Day schedule special for every NBA fan. The best matchups are a regular part of the Christmas Day pastime, and we will enjoy five games this year as well.

As Christmas Day approaches, let’s see some of the greatest Christmas Day performances in NBA history.

10. 2011: LeBron James serves his payback

The Dallas Mavericks hosted the Miami Heat in the season opener of the shortened 2011-12 season on Christmas Day. The Mavs defeated the Heat in the previous NBA Finals and the Heat were hyped up for this game.


LeBron James was criticized for his performance in the Finals series as Miami had a 2-0 lead and still lost in six games to the Mavs. James put that behind him and showed up ready for the season opener leading the Heat to a 105-94 win. King James recorded 37 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. The Heat went on to win their first NBA championship in the LeBron era that year.

9. 2018: Kyrie Irving’s best game for the Celtics

Kyrie Irving‘s time with the Celtics didn’t bring much success for Boston but his performance on Christmas Day in 2018 definitely deserves to be mentioned on this list. The Celtics hosted the Philadelphia 76ers as Jimmy Butler made his debut for the Sixers after being acquired in a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Irving was not impressed by that and led the Celtics to a 121-114 win. He scored 40 points on 17-of-33 shooting from the field and added 10 rebounds and three assists. He left the Celtics in the off-season and Boston’s crowd is not very pleasant towards him whenever he returns to the TD Garden.

8. 1972: Tiny Archibald set the Christmas Day assists record

Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald spent 14 seasons in the NBA and led the league in scoring and assists in the 1972-73 season. He had one of the best NBA Christmas performances that season, setting a record with 18 assists.

His Cincinnati Royals lost 104-99 to the Milwaukee Bucks which is the only reason why he is not higher on this list. Along with his 18 assists, Tiny scored 20 points in that game. He finished the season averaging 34 points and 11.4 assists, being the only player to lead the league in both categories in the same year.


7. 2004: Kobe serves 42 on Shaq’s Heat

It was probably the top Christmas Day game ever when Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Miami Heat in 2004. That was the first time Shaquille O’Neal visited LA after being traded from the Lakers to the Heat.

The main reason for Shaq’s trade to this day is the fact that Kobe wanted him out. Bryant was overshadowed by the big man when they won three consecutive NBA championships and he wanted to prove that he could lead the Lakers by himself. He actually did that scoring 42 points in this game, but the Heat won 104-102. Kobe made five three-pointers that night and made all of his 13 free throw attempts.

6. 1966: Rick Barry drops 50

Rick Barry is remembered as one of the greatest small forwards in NBA history. In just his second season in the NBA, Barry dropped 50 points in the San Francisco Warriors 124-112 win against the Cincinnati Royals.

Barry was mostly known for his under-armed free throw shooting, but he was actually a deadly scorer. He made 19-of-35 field goal attempts that night and 12-of-13 free throws adding 6 rebounds and 4 assists for the Warriors.

5. 1963: ‘The Logo’ scored 47 on the Knicks

Jerry West spent 14 seasons in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers winning only one NBA championship back in 1972.

Almost a decade earlier, he had his best Christmas Day performance which was actually in his third season in the league. It was 1963 and the Lakers defeated the New York Knicks 134-126. West scored 47 points on 19-of-30 shooting from the field.

4. 2010: LeBron James’ triple-double

LeBron James has been under the spotlight even before he made it to the NBA. Ever since he got into the big league he has enjoyed playing on the biggest scene and performing well when everybody is watching. One such performance came on Christmas Day in 2010.

The Miami Heat visited the Los Angeles Lakers and since Kobe Bryant and LeBron James never met in the NBA Finals, this was a much-anticipated matchup between the two best players in the league at the time.

The Lakers came off winning their second consecutive NBA championship and the Heat made a super team that off-season adding James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade. The Heat were the better team and won pretty easily by 96-80. James had his best Christmas Day performance recording a triple-double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

3. 1992: Jordan drops 42 on the Knicks

When we talk about the 1990s NBA, a decade by many considered as the best in NBA history, we have to mention the Chicago Bulls vs New York Knicks rivalry.

Michael Jordan was in his prime and the Knicks were the only team that could challenge the Bulls in the early 90s. Jordan enjoyed playing against the Knicks and some of his best performances came against the team from the Big Apple.

One of those, that will go as one of the greatest Christmas Day performances in NBA history, came in 1992.

The Knicks visited Chicago with center Patrick Ewing being on top of his game. The Knicks took a 10-point lead in the first quarter, and it seemed like the Bulls would fall to the fierce rival. Jordan didn’t think so and took over the game leading the Bulls to an 89-77 win. He finished the game with 42 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.

2. 1961: Wilt Chamberlain sets a rebounding record

Only months before he had the 100-point game, Wilt Chamberlain had an amazing performance on Christmas Day. He was the most dominant player at the time at the age of 25. The Philadelphia Warriors, where Chamberlain spent six seasons, visited the New York Knicks on Christmas Day in 1961.

Chamberlain had a dominant performance of 59 points and 36 rebounds. Somehow that wasn’t enough for a win as the Knicks prevailed in double overtime to win 136-135.

Compared to today these stats look pretty unbelievable for a player to have in the same game. Wilt’s 36 rebounds are still a Christmas Day record while his 59 points were on top for 23 years.

1. 1984: Bernard King sets a Christmas Day scoring record

If you were wondering who surpassed Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record, here is the answer. Bernard King scored 60 points on Christmas Day in 1984 which is definitely the best Christmas Day performance in NBA history.

Somehow that wasn’t enough for the Knicks, who lost 120-114 to the New Jersey Nets. King shot 19-of-30 from the field and 22-of-26 from the free throw line and added 7 rebounds and 4 assists. King finished that season as the best scorer in the NBA and made his second All-NBA First team selection.

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