Christmas Day in the NBA is a real tradition. Every year, on December 25, the League offers us a very enticing series of matches with the best players in the world on the floor, an ideal stage to mark the spirits in the middle of… the Christmas spirit. And in history, some have just taken the opportunity to release legendary performances. Back without further delay on the 5 greatest NBA performances on Christmas Day!
Bernard King, 1984
Statistics: 60 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 19/30 shooting, 22/26 free throws
Impossible not to think of Bernard King on Christmas Day. In 1984, for the derby between New Jersey and New York at Madison Square Garden, the King of the Big Apple wanted to shine and reserved a big gift for his opponent of the day. He seems on a mission from the first possessions of the match. His first half? He finishes it with… 40 points on the clock. “The best first half of my career” he would say years later.
“That season, I was at the heart of my prime. At the time of the Christmas game, I was first in the League in scoring and our team had injuries. So I had to do more than usual.”
He adds 20 in second to reach the incredible total of 60 pawns marked. It’s simple, nobody has ever scored so many points at Christmas. And at the time, no one had scored so many points at Madison Square Garden.
Led by their superstar scorer, the Knicks finished with 114 units on the clock. But opposite, the Nets plant 120 behind the trio Micheal Ray Richardson – Mike Gminski – Kelvin Ransey, finally stronger than the one-man show King. A huge disappointment for Bernard, who only thought of one thing during the match: winning.
Wilt Chamberlain, 1961
Statistics: 59 points, 36 rebounds, 23/44 shooting, 13/22 free throws
Man of all records, Wilt Chamberlain could not fail to appear in this Top 5. During the legendary 1961-62 season, a little more than two months before his legendary 100-point performance, the unstoppable pivot devoured raw the racket the Knicks by planting 59 points and 36 rebounds. We repeat for those who have not heard in the background. 59 POINTS AND 36 REBOUNDS. A perf à la Wilt, but which remains as one of the greatest in the history of Christmas matches. His 36 catches still represent an NBA record for Christmas Day.
In the end, what is perhaps most incredible about this is that Chamberlain will leave the game on the losing side. Because yes, his Philadelphia Warriors will eventually fall to the Knicks by a small point, 136-135, after two overtimes. It still took XXL performances from Richie Guerin (40 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists), Willie Naulls (33 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists), Phil Jordon (24 points) and Johnny Green (16 points, 24 rebounds) on the New York side to resist the monster Wilt.
Rick Barry, 1966
Statistics: 50 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 19/35 shooting, 12/13 free throws
While the NBA is now broadcast in over 200 countries around the world, there was a time when Christmas games weren’t on TV. Not even on the local network. No luck for Rick Barry, this is the case in 1966, during his magnificent performance in the meeting between his San Francisco Warriors and the Cincinnati Royals.
Only in his second NBA season at the time but already unstoppable, Barry exploded on Christmas Day with a 50-point performance (including 12 underarm shots) against Mister Oscar Robertson’s gang. And unlike Bernard King and Wilt Chamberlain, this performance is synonymous with victory since Rick will leave Cincinnati with a 124-112 success in the back pocket.
Those 50 points at Christmas are among Rick Barry’s many majestic performances during his sophomore season, a season in which he set his career-best scoring average (35.6 points per game).
December 25, 1966, Rick Barry scored 50 points on Christmas Day as the San Francisco Warriors defeated the Cincinnati Royals 124-112#RickBarry #Warriors #60snba #grannyshot #Christmas pic.twitter.com/5xoGvF70oT
— NBA Time Machine (@NBA_TimeMachine) December 25, 2018
Michael Jordan, 1992
Statistics: 42 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 15/34 shooting, 12/16 free throws
Michael Jordan and the Knicks in the 1990s was something. Rivalry, trashtalking, low blows, big confrontations in the Playoffs, but also at Christmas.
It’s December 25, 1992. A few months earlier, MJ and Chicago knocked out the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals after a massive seven-game streak, punctuated by a Bulls victory behind Jordan 42 points. On this Christmas evening, the price is the same for New York: 42 pawns for Jojo – author of a mid-distance festival – and victory for the Bulls 89-77. The Knicks were however off to a good start with a ten-point advantage in the first quarter, before completely sinking in the second period (50-28 for the Bulls after returning from the locker room) against Jordan’s battering.
A way for Mike to tell the Knicks that they are still not at his level, which will be confirmed during the 1993 Playoffs where the Bulls will once again take over Pat Ewing and Co.
Tracy McGrady, 2003
Statistics: 41 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals, 15/29 in shooting, 5/9 in 3-point range, 6/9 in free throws
While he is only a rookie, LeBron James is already showing on Christmas Day on December 25, 2003. Facing him? A certain Tracy McGrady, then in the prime of his career even if the Orlando Magic had a slammed start to the season that year.
The two are not going to miss the event.
The young King plays 47 minutes to finish with 34 points and 6 assists. But it is truly T-Mac who reigns over this meeting: 41 points, 8 rebounds, 11 caviars, all that to carry the Magic to a rare victory in overtime 113-101. McGrady doesn’t forget to put on a show either, he drops two big tomars in the first minutes of the match as well as a finger roll of rare purity.
Already author of a performance with more than 40 pawns the previous year at Christmas, T-Mac shows once again that the big stage of the Christmas Games is made for him.
“Everyone is watching. Even more today because of my match-up with LeBron. But I would rather be home with my family, so Merry Christmas to my loved ones.”