NBA Ho-Ho Surprise: Kobe, LeBron, MJ & the Top 10 Best Christmas Games Ever

Pat Mixon@patmixonSenior Analyst IDecember 23, 2010

NBA Ho-Ho Surprise: Kobe, LeBron, MJ & the Top 10 Best Christmas Games Ever

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    Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers take on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and their Miami Heat in a Christmas Day NBA battle.

    It’s that time of year again, this annual gift from the NBA to its fans.

    This year will be the fourth straight year the Los Angeles Lakers have played at home on Christmas Day and the 10th time in the last 12 years. But, LA only has a 4-7 record. Will this year be different? 

    And this year’s game will mark the fourth time the Lakers and Heat have met on this favorite holiday since 2004, with the Heat having won all the prior games.

    So, will this Christmas game against the Miami Heat and their new super three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh give Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Co. a run for their money? Will the Heat continue their winning ways on Christmas Day?

    To add to the gift giving, both LeBron and Kobe are set to debut their new Nike footwear with LBJ breaking out a new pair of red shoes for his LEBRON 8 V.2 while Kobe is scheduled to wear green Kobe VIs, nicknamed "The Grinch" shoes.

    No matter what, the fans benefit.

    The NBA has turned Christmas Day into a near tradition, like the NFL with Thanksgiving and the Lakers are just about America’s Team, much like the Dallas Cowboys who always play on that holiday. 

    The Five Highest Watched Christmas Day games since 2001 have been:

    1. 2004: Lakers-Heat, 13.2 million viewers
    2. 2008: Celtics-Lakers, 10 million viewers
    3. 2009: Cavs-Lakers, 8.5 million viewers
    4. 2005: Heat-Lakers, 8.1 million viewers
    5. 2002: Kings-Lakers, 7.5 million viewers

    Kobe Bryant was recently interviewed by Michael Wilbon of ESPN and asked about if he liked playing on Christmas.

    Kobe said, “I love it. As a fan, I remember watching Magic and Bird on Christmas Day or Michael against the Knicks. It’s what you do as a family, watch the games.”

    So, like Kobe, what’s our favorite NBA Christmas Day battle?

    Here are the Top 10 Best Christmas Day games ever:

No. 10: 1986, Chicago Bulls Vs. New York Knicks

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    A young Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks met a young Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls in 1986. The game was close throughout and came down to a a game-winning putback at the buzzer by Ewing.

    As a side note, Michael Jordan never did well on Christmas, except for 1992, when he beat the Knicks, scoring 42.

No. 9: 1999, San Antonio Spurs Vs. Los Angeles Lakers

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    The 1999 Los Angeles Lakers were led by their newly hired head coach, Phil Jackson. Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant played in their first year under the Zen Master.

    The Lakers would meet the defending world champs in San Antonio on this Christmas Day, led by The Admiral, David Robinson, and a young Tim Duncan.  

    The Lakers would actually beat San Antonio 99-93 and setting the tone of this rivalry for the next few years as the Shaq/Kobe duo would go on to win their first title that Spring.

No. 8: 2002, Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Sacramento Kings

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    On Christmas Day, 2002, the Lakers met their Western Conference bitter rival, the Kings.

    The Lakers were coming off their third NBA title in a row, and on the road to two of those rings went through Sacramento. This was another fiercely-contested matchup, with Sacramento winning 105-99.

    This was also highly-watched on ABC, with 7.5 million viewers 

No. 7: 2007, Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Phoenix Suns

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    This Christmas Day game would pit the Lakers vs. the Suns in a game that saw Kobe go for 38 points in a Laker win, 122-115.

    But the real highlight was the Lakers' Trevor Ariza's slam dunk on the Suns' Grant Hill.

No. 6: 1985. New York Knicks Vs. Boston Celtics

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    The New York Knicks would play the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day, 1985. The Knicks would end up winning this game against a superior Boston team that would win the NBA title the following spring of 1986.

    The game would go to overtime with a rookie Patrick Ewing leading the way for the Knicks with 32 points and 11 rebounds as New York erased a 25-point deficit in the second half to win this Christmas Day masterpiece.

    Knicks 113, Celtics 104, OT.

No. 5: 1992, Chicago Bulls Vs. New York Knicks

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    In 1992, these two bitter Eastern Conference rivals would meet again on Christmas Day.

    While Michael Jordan didn't play well on this big holiday for much of his career, this afternoon would be different. MJ would score 42 points and lead his defending NBA champion Bulls past the Knicks in a rematch of the prior year's Eastern Conference Finals.

    Bulls 89, Knicks 77.

No. 4: 2009, Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    This Christmas Day, 2009, saw the battle of the MVPs. This was the puppet game between Laker Kobe Bryant and Cavalier LeBron James.

    The game was all hype and the Lakers forgot to show up. They lost badly to a motivated Cavs team.

    But as Kobe said in the recent ESPN interview, “Doesn’t matter. We’ve gotten rocked on Christmas Day and won a championship. We’ve done the rocking on Christmas Day and won a championship.”

    The Lakers would go on to win the NBA title the following spring.

No. 3: 2008, Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Boston Celtics

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    This Christmas Day special pitted the two teams who had played for the NBA title the prior year. While only a regular season game, the Lakers came to play, winning 92-83.

    The game did nothing to erase the bitter memory of losing in the NBA Finals six months before, but Kobe Bryant scored 29 points and the Lakers got some personal revenge in snapping a 19-game Boston Celtic win streak that they had coming into the Christmas matchup.

    The Lakers would go on to win the NBA title the following spring.

No. 2: 1984, New Jersey Nets Vs. New York Knicks

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    In 1984, the the Knicks' Bernard King set the Christmas Day scoring record by dropping 60 points on this holiday against the Nets. This was a display of offensive prowess and a sight to behold as King went crazy against his former team, the Nets.

    King's 60 points also stood as the all-time record for most points at the fabled Madison Square Garden arena until Kobe Bryant scored 61.

No. 1: 2004, Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Miami Heat

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    This game was called The Return Of Big Daddy.  

    This 2004 Christmas present is the most watched Christmas game. It marked the return of Shaquille O'Neal to Los Angeles after being traded the prior summer.

    The Heat took the game 104-102 in overtime. 

    Kobe Bryant scored 42 points but missed the winning shot at the buzzer.

    He said, "I had a pretty good look, but I didn't get the balance I would have liked on the shot."

    To keep the rivalry alive, Shaq would fire back about that final shot, saying "I knew that it wasn't going to go in," O'Neal said. "It's called Shaq O'Neal fate."

    The best part of the day came with Shaq providing a hard foul on Kobe Bryant as the star went to the hoop. Shaq would foul out in the fourth quarter and offer this explanation afterward:

    "No layups, no dunks," he said.

    "For everybody?" a reporter asked.

    "Basically everybody, especially him," O'Neal replied. The "him" was Kobe, but Shaq refused to use his name.

    This was great entertainment, a great game, and great drama.

    Wonder if this year can come close?



    Want to learn more about Kobe Bryant's legendary work ethic and why he considers himself a "talented overachiever" and an "outcast" for much of his life?  Check out the new book, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success—An Insider's Look into Kobe Bryant's Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By, at to buy or sample.