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Top 5 NBA Christmas Day performances of all time

Profile Picture: Dan Halverson

December 24th, 2019

For many casual fans, the Christmas Day NBA marathon feels like the first day of the season. Despite teams being nearly one-third of the way through their season already, the dominance of football in America keeps NBA games on the backburner until this holiday.

After nearly three months of playing to only diehard fans, the NBA gets turned on in homes across America on Dec. 25 as dads, brothers, sons and bored drunk uncles everywhere look for something to watch so they don't end up talking politics with grandma. With the stage set and the TV’s on, some of the league’s stars have used this showcase to shine the brightest. Let’s look at the five greatest performances on Christmas Day in NBA history.

5. Wilt Chamberlain (1961)

I wasn’t around to witness this and most reading likely weren’t either, but it’s impossible to ignore the stats that Wilt Chamberlain put up in this game. He had 59 points and 36 rebounds, which by today’s standards is absolute dominance. The Big Dipper wasn't half bad on Christmas Day in 1968 as well, when he blocked 23 shots.

4. Scottie Pippen (1994)

One of the great debates among NBA fans is the extent to which Scottie Pippen deserves credit for his success given the amount of time he spent playing alongside Michael Jordan. In 1994, with Jordan in retirement, Pippen and the Bulls faced off against the Knicks, winning 107-104 in overtime. Pippen had 36 points 16 rebound and added five steals on defense. He played every single minute of the game, and scored all seven of the Bulls’ overtime points to win the game. Pippen will never get the credit he deserves for the quality of player he was, but games like this one go a long way in proving what a great player he truly was.

3. Kyrie Irving (2018)

Playing during his short stint with the Celtics, Kyrie Irving filled Christmas Day with excitement in a 121-114 overtime win against the 76ers. Kyrie scored 40 points and had 10 rebounds and did so with plenty of drama. After hitting a game-tying shot at the end of regulation, he followed that by hitting two more threes in overtime to seal the win.

2. Tracy McGrady (2003)

Just one year prior in 2002, McGrady scored 46 points on Christmas against the Pistons. This game in 2003 was LeBron’s Christmas debut, but McGrady stole the show and the game, with the Magic beating the Cavs 113-101 in overtime. With a 41-point, 11 assist, eight rebound stat line, McGrady showed off just how unstoppable he was in his prime. McGrady went on to lead the league in scoring in 2003, averaging 32.1 points per game. He is one of the more underrated pure scorers in NBA history, and will likely hold the highest Christmas scoring average for quite some time.

1. LeBron James (2010)

LeBron James and the Heat faced off against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in 2010, and LeBron’s dynamic play led to an easy 96-80 win for Miami. King James had a 27-11-10 triple-double and got the win in an incredibly efficient outing. While the game itself was pretty boring, it is a good illustration of just how dominant James was in his prime. He knew the world was watching, and he showed out.

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