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NBA Christmas Games Tradition: What Are They For?



Every year, select NBA teams play on Christmas day. How this tradition came to be is not known to many. And so are the reasons behind those games.

Well, here’s a look into the NBA Christmas games tradition.

Purpose of the NBA Christmas games

Christmas is a time for merrymaking. It started in 1947 wherein the Association puts together teams with some of the best players.  

Although, the games are like a rematch of the previous season’s playoffs or finals game. The emphasis is on desirable matchups for national viewership.

NBA tries to strike a balance between team performance and market size. Not necessarily for the ticket sales, but what the fans would want to see on Christmas day.

That’s according to NBA senior vice president of broadcasting, Tom Carelli. The fans and the NBA’s great storylines are what the games are for.

Playing the NBA’s Santa Claus, Carelli selects the Christmas agenda. Priority games are created—they are an opportunity for more people to get to watch each game.

Siphoning the new blood

Christmas day games feature both established and new NBA players

The staples will be playing including LeBron James, Stephen Curry (who missed last year’s games due to an ankle injury), Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving.

And then, there are Christmas day rookies such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Lonzo Ball, and Donovan Mitchell. Zion Williamson will be also debuting this year.

Participating in the festivities

Despite the criticisms and complaints that the games take away precious time of these players that should’ve been spent with families on Christmas day, coaches and players see the inclusion as an honour, a reward, an opportunity, and a privilege.

Dwight Howard said, “I’d rather be playing on Christmas than sitting at home wishing I was playing on Christmas.”

Not all NBA teams and players are given the chance to play before thousands of adoring fans.

How many NBA games are played on Christmas?

The Association sets five games every year. For the 2019-20 campaign, here are the marquee matchups.

  • Los Angeles Clippers vs Los Angeles Lakers
  • Boston Celtics vs Toronto Raptors
  • New Orleans Pelicans vs Denver Nuggets
  • Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors
  • Milwaukee Bucks vs Philadelphia 76ers

Do the New York Knicks always play on Christmas?

Knicks always play on Christmas. For 53 years, they are included in the roster. They won’t be playing this year, however. 

It’s one of the saddest exits from the previous lineups. It performed the worst in the last season with 17-65 record. The Knicks have not appeared on any playoffs as well since 2013.

But did you know that the Knicks played and won the first-ever Christmas day game against Providence Steam Rollers, 89-75? 

Which NBA teams will play this Christmas? 

Other teams who won’t be playing this year are Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Utah Jazz.

On the other hand, new teams in the lineup include New Orleans Pelicans, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, and the Denver Nuggets.

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Have you watched an NBA game on Christmas day before? How was the experience? Let us know.

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