A preview of the NBA Christmas Day games

December 24, 2023
With a loaded five-game slate featuring starpower, playoff rematches, and classic rivalries, grab a mug of hot cocoa, hide the remote from your family, and scroll on to unwrap everything you need to know ahead of tomorrow’s tipoff.
Sports NewsBasketball
A preview of the NBA Christmas Day games

🤓 The history

The NFL has Thanksgiving, the NHL has New Year’s Day, and the NBA has Christmas. Save one grinch lockout-cancelled holiday in 1998, the league’s top teams have met on December 25th each year since 1947, just one year after the Basketball Association of America (which later became the NBA) was formed.

  • The first ever Christmas Day game was held at the iconic Madison Square Garden, where the NY Knicks beat the Providence Steamrollers. We’re sorry, who?
  • Then, in 1967, the LA Lakers played the San Diego Rockets in what became the first nationally televised Christmas Day game, the first of many to be watched with full stomachs.

Needless to say, men’s basketball and yuletide cheer have gone hand in hand for decades, with two iconic players setting records and taking names on the coveted Christmas Day stage:

  • In 1984, the NY Knicks’ Bernard King set the Christmas Day points record, scoring 60 against the then–New Jersey Nets. A record that still stands almost 40 years later.
  • And we can’t forget about the King of Christmas himself, LA Laker LeBron James, who is the all-time Christmas Day scoring leader, amassing 460 points over an NBA record 17 Christmas Day games.

🫒 The appetizers


Milwaukee Bucks vs. NY Knicks, 12 p.m. ET: There’s no better way to tip off Christmas Day action than a game at Madison Square Garden. This year’s tilt marks New York’s league-leading 56th Christmas Day game.

  • While the festive fun is old hat for Julius Randle and the Knicks, NY will have their hands full with two-time MVP and Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced YAH-niss ah-det-oh-KOON-boh), who’s averaging a cool 30.9 points per game and just wants the rock in his hands.

Golden State Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets, 2:30 p.m. ET: Unlike your holiday cheese board consumption, the perennial powerhouse Warriors are slowing down. But that’s not to say Stephen Curry has left the kitchen: Chef Curry is still serving up threes, netting the most in the league this season.

  • But the defending champ Nuggets, featuring reigning Finals MVP Nikola Jokić and Canadian Jamal Murray, have been cooking, too. This battle of the last two NBA champions should be spicy, especially with their last meeting in November decided by just three points.

🍽️ The main course


Boston Celtics vs. LA Lakers, 5 p.m. ET: Mariah Carey was on to something because all we want for Christmas is this historic showdown featuring the league-leading Celtics and the In-Season Tournament champion Lakers. Led by the aforementioned King of Christmas, the Lakers have won an NBA record 24 yuletide games and will be looking to add to that total tomorrow.

  • Standing in their way? Beantown stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who are giving Rudolph this season, guiding the Celtics on and off the scoresheet.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat, 8 p.m. ET: Time for a post-dinner cappuccino because this hoops marathon is headed to South Beach. Sixers star and reigning MVP Joel Embiid is somehow better than he was last season, scoring an impressive 40.2 points per game in the month of December.

  • Embiid’s not the only one on the nice list though: The Heat have the highest winning percentage among active teams on Christmas Day, winning 11 of their 13 Christmas contests, and are unbeaten on the holiday under head coach Erik Spoelstra.

🥧 The dessert


Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns, 10:30 p.m. ET: Cut a slice of your fave pie and cap off hoopsmas with a tale as old as St. Nick himself: the old dog vs. the new tricks. On the verge of becoming the fastest player to reach 10K points, Mavs star Luka Dončić is in his magician era, tossing mind-boggling dimes and hitting ridiculous shots.

  • Don’t let the Suns’ mediocre record fool you though: Despite a lackluster start to the season, things can heat up quickly in the desert with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker on the roster.

📺 How to tune in


Stock up on milk and cookies, and settle in for this festive five-game slate. If you’re in the U.S., catch all the action on ESPN. And if you’re watching from Canada, set the channel to Sportsnet, but flip over to TSN to watch the Celtics and Lakers at 5 p.m. ET.

  • Merry hoopsmas to all, and to all a day of basketball delights.