A Brief history of NBA games on Christmas Day and the 2023 schedule

Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics
Brooklyn Nets v Boston Celtics / Omar Rawlings/GettyImages

The NBA first started playing on Christmas Day in 1947 during its second season. Over the years, these games have featured some of the top performances in league history. 

In 1961, for example, Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robertson each scored 40 points in a matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cincinnati Royals. The same day, Wilt Chamberlain put up 59 points and a Christmas Day record 36 rebounds against the New York Knicks.

In 1972, Nate Archibald dished out 18 assists, setting a Christmas Day record, and in 1984, Bernard King scored 60 points in the highest-scoring performance ever on December 25. For more of the most memorable Christmas Day moments, click here

During the league’s early days, matchups were usually determined by location and the best ways to make players travel the least possible amount of time over the holidays. With the rise of television and the possibility of reaching a larger audience on Christmas, the NBA started scheduling some of the most anticipated matchups. 

Since 2008, there have been five games every year featuring MVP candidates, reigning champions, some of the top rookies and rising stars, and established rivalries. All five games are available on ABC and ESPN with broadcasts covering pretty much the entire day.

Christmas Day Schedule 2023

This year’s matchups include five former MVPs: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Joel Embiid, and Kevin Durant. On top of that, the last four NBA champions are all playing. Almost all the brightest stars in the game will be in action. 

Here is the full schedule:

Have the Kings ever played on Christmas Day?

In the Sacramento era, the Kings have played on Christmas Day twice in 2002 and 2003, led by Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic, and Mike Bibby. Since then, they have not been scheduled again, but as they are returning to relevance, this will hopefully change soon.

The Kings are once again a playoff team, have a young MVP clabber player in De’Aaron Fox, and are building rivalries with other Western Conference teams. Everything is pointing towards a Kings game on Christmas Day in the near future. 

Even though the Kings are not playing this year, there are plenty of games to look forward to for all basketball fans.