A history of the NBA on Christmas Day


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The Jazz have played basketball eight times on Christmas Day — twice when they were the New Orleans Jazz in 1975 and 1977, and six times since relocating to Utah in 1979, 1982, 1988, 1997, 2018 and 2021.

Though the Jazz won’t be playing on Dec. 25 this year, I thought you might like a little history and some fun facts about the NBA on Christmas Day.

The NBA started playing on Christmas Day in 1947 during the league’s second season. The very first game was played at Madison Square Garden between the New York Knicks and Providence Steam Rollers. The Knicks won, 89-75.

In the early days, games were played between regional rivals in order to keep holiday travel at a minimum. Now, games are played between the most high-profile teams, and since 1995 the reigning NBA champion has played on Christmas Day.

The Christmas Day slate features five games: Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks; Los Angeles Lakers at Dallas Mavericks; Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics; Memphis Grizzlies at Golden State Warriors; Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets.

This will be the first time that the Grizzlies have played a Christmas Day game and the only team in the NBA that has never played on Christmas is the Charlotte Hornets.

LeBron James is set to play with the Lakers for his 17th Christmas Day game, which will break the current record of Christmas Day games played by a player, 16, held by Kobe Bryant.

Hall of Famer Bernard King scored 60 points for the Knicks on Christmas Day in 1984 in a loss to the New Jersey Nets. His 60 points remains an NBA Christmas Day record for scoring.

Three of the five games on the Christmas Day schedule this year — Sixers at Knicks, Lakers at Mavericks and Bucks at Celtics — will air in prime time in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, allowing fans, friends and families of players on those teams to watch the games more conveniently.

The Christmas Day games will be broadcast or available to stream in 200 countries and territories and in more than 50 languages.

New with the Jazz

This week in Jazz history

On Dec. 14, 1999, the Los Angeles Clippers scored just 19 points in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers, snapping a nearly 25-year old record for fewest points in the first half of a game held by the New Orleans Jazz. New Orleans scored 20 points in the first half against Seattle on Jan. 4, 1975.

This week on ‘Unsalvageable’

Check out “Unsalvageable,” hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster).

Keep and eye out for this week’s episode, coming this weekend. In it, the crew talks about Donovan Mitchell’s interview with Marc Spears and how to move forward combatting racism.

The podcast has moved to a new feed, so remember to follow or subscribe by searching for “Unsalvageable” through your podcast provider.

New episodes come out every week. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere else you stream podcasts.

Stat of the week

Lauri Markkanen set a new career-high in points scored on Nov. 18, scoring 38 points in a 134-133 win over the Phoenix Suns. On Tuesday, Markkanen matched that number scoring 38 points in a 126-111 win over the Detroit Pistons.

From the archives

Extra points

  • Jazz express disappointment in barely missing Joe Ingles’ return to basketball (KSL.com)
  • Utah Jazz react to Donovan Mitchell ‘having fun’ and being ‘thankful’ (Salt Lake Tribune)
  • Donovan Mitchell reflects on his time in Utah (AndScape)
  • Donovan Mitchell looks back on his trade to the Cavs as a win for all parties (Deseret News)

Around the league

The Phoenix Suns are being sold for a record $4 billion.

2023 Hall of Fame nominees announced.

Jason Kidd fined $25K for confronting an official.

Up next

Dec. 26 | 6 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ San Antonio Spurs | AT&T SportsNet

Dec. 28 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Golden State Warriors | AT&T SportsNet

Dec. 30 | 8 p.m. | Utah Jazz @ Sacramento Kings | AT&T SportsNet

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