Why does the NBA play on Christmas Day?

On the day of Christmas of 2023, the NBA has scheduled five games, all with a background detail. It starts with the Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks and will end with Dallas Mavericks v. Phoenix Suns with ball at 4:30 a.m. Italian time.

The highlight matches are undoubtedly Denver Nuggets-Golden State Warriors, two of the best lineups in the West on paper, and especially Boston Celtics v. Los Angeles Lakers, two of the most beloved and cheering formations in the world. But let’s look at some NBA history at Christmas.

The first NBA game on Christmas

The first official game played on Christmas Day in the NBA dates all the way back to the 1947, or the league’s second overall season. The commissioner was Maurice Podoloff, and New York Knicks v. Providence Steamrollers (89-75) was the match that inaugurated this tradition that persists to this day, with the NBA putting some of the most anticipated games of the year on the calendar to keep company with families gathered for the holiday throughout the course of the day (and night, for us Europeans). The only exception was the 1998-99 season, when the league was halted for the lockout.

The NBA represents a unicum for the U.S.: the baseball is in the offseason, theNFL rarely plays on Dec. 25, while in NHL is prohibited from playing on the 3 holidays (Dec. 24, 25 and 26), as decreed by the players’ collective bargaining agreement. This allows basketball to become the master of the sport nationally and, to some extent, globally, with the eyes of fans turned solely to the basketball.

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Shaq and Kobe on Christmas Day 2004.

The stars of the Christmas Day competitions were all the superstars who trod the NBA’s parquet floors, and there were countless performances to remember: the 59 points and 36 rebounds of Wilt Chamberlain in 1961, the 60 points of Bernard King in 1984, the legendary challenge between Shaq and Kobe in 2004, their first as opponents since their successes with the Lakers, the 1,000th win by Phil Jackson in 2008 (vs. the Celtics), ending with the 2016-2017 double-header between Golden State and Cleveland, with Irving winning the first duel and Thompson and the Warriors the second.

The reasons why the NBA decided to put the most anticipated games on the schedule on Christmas Day itself

They are manifold with at the forefront, of course, the economic issue. Television is a major player on holidays in every household around the world, and the league seized the ball as early as the 1940s, selling broadcasts for disproportionate amounts of money, with all the games broadcast on the national networks. The fact that other major U.S. sports do not take the court on Dec. 25 is a big plus for basketball, which can thus monopolize the television market, often filling the entire day with intense programming.

If in the past the NBA scheduled games according to major rivalries in the same Divisions, partly to allow players to spend the holiday with their families, in modern days this is no longer the case; on the contrary, games are often played between teams from different conferences, who only face each other twice during the season, thus creating more hype For a simple regular season game.

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In recent years, thanks to the partnership between the NBA and Adidas, Christmas Day also meant some special uniforms, which, however, is not the case with Nike, now the exclusive partner for NBA game undershirts.

That said, sit on the couch with your family, remote control in hand and enjoy the NBA on Christmas Day show!

Francesco Manelli
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