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Ranked the top 10 best Christmas Day performances in NBA history

Christmas Day is one of the busiest on the NBA calendar. The league’s best players may miss out on some family time during the holidays, but some of the best NBA Christmas performances we’ve seen are simply unforgettable.

The NBA makes the holiday season even more fun, and in this article we’ll bring you some proof of that.

The best NBA Christmas performances

This season marks the 75th anniversary since the NBA made Christmas Day special for every NBA fan. The best matchups are a regular part of the Christmas Day pastime, and we’ll be enjoying five matches this year, too.

As Christmas Day approaches, we take a look at some of the greatest Christmas Day performances in NBA history.

10. 2011: LeBron James seeks his revenge

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 previous NBA Finals, and the Heat were hyped for that game.

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

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

Kyrie Irving’s stint with the Celtics didn’t bring much success to Boston, but his performance on Christmas Day 2018 definitely deserves a mention on this list. The Celtics welcomed the Philadelphia 76ers when Jimmy Butler made his debut for the Sixers after being acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Irving was undeterred and led the Celtics to a 121-114 victory. He scored 40 points on 17 of 33 shots from the field and added 10 rebounds and three assists. He left the Celtics in the off-season and Boston crowds aren’t too keen on him returning to the TD Garden.

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

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

His Cincinnati Royals lost 104-99 to the Milwaukee Bucks, which is the only reason he’s 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, becoming 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 best Christmas game ever when Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Miami Heat in 2004. This was Shaquille O’Neal’s first visit to LA after being traded from the Lakers to the Heat.

The main reason behind Shaq’s trade to date is the fact that Kobe wanted him out. Bryant was overshadowed by the big man as they won three straight NBA championships and he wanted to prove he could lead the Lakers on his own. He actually did, scoring 42 points that game, but the Heat won 104-102. Kobe hit five threes that night and made all of his 13 free throw attempts.

6. 1966: Rick Barry turns 50

Rick Barry is considered one of the greatest small forwards in NBA history. In just his second season in the NBA, Barry lost 50 points in the San Francisco Warriors’ 124-112 win over the Cincinnati Royals.

Barry was best known for his underarm free throw shooting, but he was actually a deadly goalscorer. He made 19 of 35 field goal attempts and 12 of 13 free throws that night, added 6 rebounds and 4 assists for the Warriors.

5. 1963: “The Logo” scored 47 points with the Knicks

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

Almost a decade earlier, he had his best performance on Christmas Day, 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 shots from the field.

4. 2010: LeBron James’ triple-double

LeBron James was already in the spotlight before he made it to the NBA. Since moving up to the big leagues he has enjoyed playing in the biggest scene and performing well when everyone is watching. One such performance took place on Christmas Day 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 duel between the two best players in the league at the time.

The Lakers won their second straight NBA championship and the Heat put together a super team this offseason, adding James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade. The Heat were the better team and won fairly easily 96-80. James had his best performance on Christmas Day with a triple-double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

3. 1992: Jordan drops 42 to the Knicks

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

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 Big Apple team.

One of which will be considered one of the greatest Christmas Day performances in NBA history took place in 1992.

The Knicks visited Chicago with center Patrick Ewing at his best. The Knicks took a 10-point lead in the first quarter, and it seemed like the Bulls were about to fall to their bitter rival. Jordan didn’t believe that 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 rebound record

Just months before he had the 100 point game, Wilt Chamberlain put on an amazing performance on Christmas Day. At the age of 25 he was the most dominant player at the time. The Philadelphia Warriors, with whom Chamberlain spent six seasons, visited the New York Knicks on Christmas Day 1961.

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

Compared to today, these stats look pretty incredible for a player in the same game. Wilt’s 36 rebounds are still a Christmas Day record, while his 59 points held the lead for 23 years.

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

If you were wondering who broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record, here’s the answer. Bernard King scored 60 points on Christmas Day 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, adding 7 rebounds and 4 assists. King finished that season as the NBA’s top scorer and made his second All-NBA First Team selection.

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