Christmas is always a special time in the NBA. The league is celebrating the holiday season by offering its fans five big name games featuring some of the Association’s biggest names. The COVID-19 situation has put the brakes on the 2021 edition somewhat, as some stars are still currently in the league’s health and safety protocols. Nonetheless, it should still be a fun hoop night for the annual tradition.
There have obviously been timeless classics throughout the history of NBA Christmas Day games. With that said, let’s take a look at the five best NBA games of all time for Christmas Day.
5 best Christmas games
5. Bulls vs. Lakers 2011
The match pitted Chicago Bulls goalie and reigning MVP Derrick Rose against Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant in what became a thrilling Christmas Day and Opening Day duel between two of the stars. brightest in the league.
The game was pretty close throughout as the Lakers entered the fourth quarter with a 69-68 lead. Los Angeles took control of the majority of the final frame. They held a 6-point lead with less than a minute to go after Kobe Bryant made a tough spinning jump near the baseline in what appeared to be the dagger to put D-Rose and Chicago to bed. However, Luol Deng scored 5 unanswered points in 25 seconds to narrow the lead to a single point with 20.4 seconds remaining.
The Lakers could have frozen the game on the free throw line. But Chicago bombarded Bryant with a double team and forced a turnover in Los Angeles that set up an incredible moment on Christmas Day. The Bulls got the theft, didn’t ask for a timeout and handed it over to their MVP.
With the game in play with 11 seconds left, Derrick Rose measured Derek Fisher with a crossover, drove hard to the right, got to the middle of the lane and pulled an impossible one-handed float over Pau Gasol’s long arms. to give the Bulls the lead with 4.8 seconds left. Deng denied Kobe Bryant’s attempt to win and the Bulls emerged victorious with one of the most memorable Christmas games of all time.
4. Warriors vs. Clippers 2013
Stephen Curry and Chris Paul renew their feud on Saturday as the Golden State Warriors travel to the Talking Stick Resort Arena to take on the Phoenix Suns. In doing so, the two future Hall of Fame leaders actually fought for the ages in their Christmas Day duel in 2013.
Curry was still a rising star at this time. Meanwhile, Paul, then a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, had already established himself as the league’s top playmaker. Curry and the Dubs became one of the NBA’s go-to teams in the previous campaign and awarded them a Christmas Day showdown against the equally thrilling Lob City Clippers with CP3 and Blake Griffin.
This game was chippy throughout. It eventually escalated into a pretty heated affair. Draymond Green was sent off at the end of the third quarter after nudging Blake Griffin in the head. Griffin was also thrown around the start of the fourth after getting his second technique following a fight with Andrew Bogut.
Curry struggled throughout the game, but eventually found his rhythm in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 15 points in that span. Meanwhile, Paul scored eight in the fourth with Griffin no longer in the contest. At the end of the day, the Warriors held on to the hard-fought 105-103 victory on Christmas Day. In many ways, this game became the epitome of what became a great rivalry between the Warriors and the Clippers throughout the 2010s.
3. Lakers vs. Heat 2004
After Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant split the previous summer, the NBA decided it was a good idea to have the iconic Los Angeles Lakers duo from the early 2000s when they first met as than former teammates on Christmas Day in 2004. The game also marked O’Neal’s first return to Staples Center since his trade with the Miami Heat in the offseason.
Los Angeles was obviously no longer the powerhouse it once was after O’Neal left and the Heat were the overwhelming favorites. Still, the tension at Staples Center was at its height. Despite the talent disparity, the game did not disappoint. Miami came in with a 10-game winning streak, and Kobe and the Lakers almost ended it. With their competition juices flowing, O’Neal and Bryant faced off all night.
Shaq fouled with more than two minutes left in regulation and the Heat had to play the final two minutes and all of extra time without their star cross. Dwyane Wade was huge for Miami in the home stretch and beat Bryant, who missed the triple overtime winning potential.
2. Bulls vs. Knicks 1994
Even without Michael Jordan, who was still retired at the time, the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks still had a very lively affair on Christmas Day in 1994. This game came after the Bulls and the Knicks experienced a 7-game bloodbath in the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals, which saw the Knickerbockers come out on top.
But in that particular Christmas Day showdown, the Bulls beat the Knicks in a 107-104 overtime victory. Scottie Pippen was special in this game, leading the Bulls with 36 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and five steals. He scored all of Chicago’s seven points in the extra session, including a tough one-handed jump hook with less than a minute to go to put the Bulls ahead of three. And in classic Pippen fashion, the Bulls star wrapped up his spectacular night on the defensive end with a few blocks on two Knicks tied 3-point attempts to secure the win.
1. Cavaliers vs. Warriors 2016
The Cavalier-Warrior rivalry in the 2010s is well documented. And their standoff on Christmas Day 2016 has become one of the most anticipated revenges of the NBA Finals in league history.
The hype behind this particular contest was through the roof, considering what just happened between the two teams in their previous final meeting. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavs spoiled Golden State’s bid for the best season ever by coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the final to win the 2016 NBA Championship. Meanwhile, Stephen Curry and the Dubs responded in the offseason by signing Kevin Durant and creating arguably the greatest team of all time.
The game turned out as good as advertised as the two teams went neck and neck until the last seconds. Kyrie Irving, in particular, was spectacular throughout the last two minutes of the game. He made several clutch plays, including the winning shot on Klay Thompson with 3.4 seconds left. Kevin Durant stumbled into final possession and Cleveland had the best of rivals when they first met since their historic meeting in the NBA Finals in 2016.