Christmas games a tradition for the NBA
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez has mapped out his day on Christmas. He will wake up – not time for presents yet – and begin preparing for the Nets’ noon ET game against the Boston Celtics.
Afterward, he return home and join his brother Chris, who lives with him, for Christmas dinner and gift opening. Their mom, Deborah Ledford, sent a package of wrapped gifts, and Lopez claims he has not opened a gift prematurely.
“I’ve been a good boy,” Lopez said.
And just as much as he is looking forward to presents from the family, he is excited about working on Christmas Day.
“Growing up, we always watched Christmas Day games. It was a big day for us,” said Lopez, whose twin brother Robin plays for the New Orleans Hornets. “To finally get a chance to be a part of it, it’s really special for me.”
In the NBA’s second season, 1947, the New York Knicks beat the Providence Steamrollers at Madison Square Garden 89–75 on Christmas Day and a tradition was born.
With the exception of the lockout season of 1998, the NBA has been as much a part of Christmas as Santa Claus. And with no college bowl games on Christmas – there hasn’t been a Christmas bowl game since 2003 – NBA games have become the premier sporting events to watch that day, save for the occasional NFL games.
Players mostly buy into Christmas games because of the significant exposure and cachet.
“Christmas Day was special because everybody is watching at home,” ABC/ESPN analyst and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson said. “That’s what I loved about Christmas Day because it shined the spotlight on the Lakers, on our team, and we knew that all of the other leagues were at home and millions of people were watching. So it made it a special day to play on Christmas.”
In the early days, games were televised locally and began receiving national TV exposure in the late 1960s. But the NBA really made Christmas its version of the NFL and Thanksgiving in the past 30 years when the league’s TV partners made Christmas games a major … [For more on Christmas Day games a tradition for the NBA, click here.]