Top 5 NBA Christmas Day Games Since 2000

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It’s that time of the year again. Christmas time, a time for family, fun, and the sport of basketball. Since 1947, the NBA has been showing Christmas Day games to the masses and it has been one of the events that fans cross on their calendars. With the 2021 edition of Christmas Day basketball upon us, I think it is only fair to rank some of the memorable games that have graced our televisions in the recent era.

Quick Disclaimer: When I say the recent era of basketball, I am referring to 2000 – present. Knowing that the new generation of fans would not have vivid memories of the Jordan era or the Bird/Magic era. With the advancements of social media and the media coverage growing each year, the Christmas Day games have gotten better and better each year. Here are the Top five NBA Christmas Day Games.

5) 2003: Orlando Magic 113, Cleveland Cavaliers 103 (OT)

In this matchup, it features a star at the time in Tracy McGrady and a player that would later be considered one of the greats, LeBron James. At this day and time, these two teams were not good, combining for 56 wins, so Lebron and T-Mac had ample time to show out. McGrady scored 41 points and added 11 assists and eight rebounds while LeBron scored 34 points and six assists.

An underrated part of the game was the play of Carlos Boozer, who achieved a double-double with 18 points and 19 rebounds. Juwan Howard, a few years before becoming a teammate of LeBron was the key to the Magic’s overtime victory, scoring the first eight points of overtime. Don’t worry, you will see LeBron’s name a lot on this list because he somehow gives out those King-like performances during Christmas time.

4) 2013: Golden State Warriors 105, Los Angeles Clippers 103

In recent years, the Clippers and Warriors have reached the top echelon of the NBA and the games that these two teams have played have given the media the drama that it needs to build narratives. Their 2013 Christmas Day matchup was no different when it comes to drama. Both Blake Griffin and Draymond Green were ejected, and Andrew Bogut received a technical and flagrant foul in separate situations during the game, so this game was pretty chippy for the most part.

The game itself was awesome, with Golden State’s defense staying strong throughout the entire game. The ending sequence started when Jamal Crawford missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, which would have been the dagger for the Warriors. After the shot missed the mark, both Chris Paul and Andrew Bogut got into a shoving match, that eventually led to a benches-clearing confrontation between the two teams. Later matchups would bring back and forth drama but the 2013 Christmas Night game will be the one that most fans remember.

3) 2010: Miami Heat 96, Los Angeles Lakers 80

In Today’s NBA landscape, one of the biggest missed opportunities that causes fans to go back and think about “What If”? is LeBron James vs the late Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals. The best time that we could have seen the finals matchup was the 2010 season. Kobe and the Lakers were coming off back-to-back championship titles while LeBron had just teamed up with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach, giving Miami their “Big 3”. While the Lakers were considered a powerful team, LeBron was at the stage of his career in which he was the most hated athlete in the world, according to the media.

With a national television audience waiting for LeBron to get his comeuppance, the audience saw another one of King James’s impressive Christmas Day performances. James messed around and had a triple-double with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Chris Bosh had a double-double with 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Dwayne Wade had 18 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Even with the combined effort of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol scoring 17 points each, it wasn’t enough for the Lakers to get the win in LeBron’s first Christmas Day game as a member of the Heat. During this game, James would be one of several players to achieve a triple-double on Christmas Day.

2) 2004: Miami Heat 104, Los Angeles Lakers 102 (OT)

Eight years and three championships, that was the tenure between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers. After a season in which the Lakers lost in the NBA Finals to Detroit, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat and the beef between the former teammates escalated over the years following the trade. For the next three years, fans would be blessed to see Shaq vs Kobe on Christmas Day, but the first encounter was the most memorable of the three.

With this being O’Neal’s first game back at Staples Center since leaving the Lakers, the tension was at a fever pitch. In a highly competitive game, Kobe had 42 points, going 13-of-13 from the free-throw line while Shaq had 24 points with 11 rebounds, but he eventually fouled out. Dwayne Wade, in his first Christmas Day game, scored 29 points and 10 assists. At the end of the game, Bryant missed a three-pointer that would have won the game in overtime. The rivalry between Kobe and Shaq was a great time for the sport and these games more than lived up to the hype.

1) 2016: Cleveland Cavaliers 109, Golden State Warriors 108

Picture the buildup to this matchup: LeBron James overcomes a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals to win a title for Cleveland and the famous “This is for You” line becomes a historic moment. Golden State, who was 73-9 the season before decides to sign Kevin Durant, arguably one of the best players in the world at the time, from an OKC team that blew their own 3-1 lead in the Conference Finals to the Warriors. Sets up the makings of one of the best rivalries in the game today which is still going on to this day: LeBron vs KD/Stephen Curry.

With all of those variables in place, it sets up an NBA Finals rematch on Christmas Day in 2016. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors had a 14-point lead when Cleveland went on their run. Kyrie Irving scored 14 of his 25 points during the fourth, including a game-winning shot with 3.4 seconds left. LeBron led the way with 31 points, achieving a team-high as Cleveland spoiled Durant’s 36-point performance in his first Christmas Day game with Golden State. If you want to know the intensity in those NBA Finals games between the Cavs and the Warriors, it went crazy during the Christmas Day games.

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