Last year, Christmas day in the NBA was a little bit weird, being opening day and all, probably giving it a tad more of an extra special feeling. This season, everything is back to normal, or is it?
LeBron James being a champion going into the Christmas game is new for us, and for him. Different or not, with James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony in action, there’s a good chance we’ll get to see something very special, maybe even memorable, from one of the star players in the five games gracing out TV screens on Christmas.
Players in line for big ones tonight – Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony will probably be dueling for who gets to ball hog the ball more than the other. James and Durant is always extremely interesting to see, although both Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook might get to steal the show. The Chicago Bulls don’t have one player (until Rose returns) who can take over a game, but they do have the defense to stop James Harden.
Michael Jordan, 1992
Bulls, Knicks, Christmas, early 1990’s, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Patrick Ewing, Pat Riley’s team. It doesn’t get better than this, in the best rivalry in the NBA back then. As customary in that rivalry, Michael Jordan simply shredded the Knicks with 42 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals, delivering a Kobe-esque 15 for 34 from the field without hitting a single shot from beyond the arc. I wonder what they would be saying about this today, especially with Jordan scoring nearly half of his team’s points in a 89-77 win.
Charles Barkley & Kevin Johnson, 1993
The Phoenix Suns were looking for another trip to the NBA finals in the 1993-1994 season, seeing as how this time, there won’t be any Michael Jordan blocking the light at the end of the tunnel. Charles Barkley and Kevin Johsnon teamed up to destroy the eventual NBA champions, the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon. Barkley finished with 38 points and 18 rebounds, KJ added 36 points and 9 assists in a 111-91 win.
Scottie Pippen, 1994
Stern, even without Michael Jordan in the lineup, loved putting the Chicago Bulls in a matchup with the New York Knicks on December 25. This time it was Scottie Pippen’s turn to shine, not knowing that a few months later he’d be getting Michael Jordan back, and take a step back to the role he did better than anyone – be a sidekick. Pippen finished 36 points, 16 rebounds, 5 steals and two blocks, leading the Bulls to a surprising 107-104 overtime win.
Dwyane Wade, 2006
It was a tough season for the Miami Heat following their NBA title in 2006, heading into the Christmas game with a 12-14 record and without Shaquille O’Neal. Of the guys playing next to him on that day, only Udonis Haslem is still with the Miami Heat. On the other side? Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, with guys like Luke Walton, Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and Brian Cook in the lineup.
While Bryant had one of his worst performances in recent years, scoring 16 points while going 4-17 from the field, Dwyane Wade led the Heat to a 101-85 win, scoring 40 points, adding 11 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks and 4 steals.
LeBron James, 2010
James’ first season with the Miami had a rough start to it, but by Christmas they were playing excellent basketball, coming in with a 22-9 record. The Lakers, the defending NBA champions, were doing pretty good themselves with a 21-8 record. The Miami Heat were just too good on defense, keeping the Lakers at 40.5% from the field, winning 96-80, as the big three combined for 69 points and LeBron James conjured a 27 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 4 steals triple double.
Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, 2011
The night that opened the season a year ago, Christmas day had two players standing out. In Dallas, the NBA champions showed that they weren’t going to bother the Miami Heat for a second straight season. LeBron James finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks as the Heat dismantled the Mavs 105-94, taking it easy in the fourth quarter, allowing Dallas to come back from nearly 40 points down.
In New York, the Knicks showed a promising start to the season against the Boston Celtics, beating the team that swept them in the postseason a few months earlier 106-104. Carmelo Anthony, beginning a season as a Knick for the first time, had his moment in the sun with 37 points and 8 rebounds, overcoming a big night from Rajon Rondo, finishing with 31 points and 13 assists.