The first player to haunt David Stern on Christmas Eve 2011 should be Tracy McGrady, the Ghost of NBA Christmas Past.
The Ghost of NBA Christmas Past should be two things: 1) the most productive Christmas player and 2) a washed-up Christmas player (they are a ghost from the past, after all).
With 1.3 wins produced, T-Mac has been more productive than any other player on Christmas in the 21st century. The table below lists the 10 most productive NBA Christmas players from 2000 to 2010.
Most Productive NBA Christmas Players
|Rank ||Player ||GP ||MP ||Wins Produced |
per 48 minutes
|1 ||Tracy McGrady ||3 ||138 ||0.452 ||1.299
|2 ||Shaquille O'Neal ||9 ||300.2 ||0.204 ||1.276
|3 ||Dwyane Wade ||6 ||232.5 ||0.248 ||1.200
|4 ||Lamar Odom ||6 ||222.9 ||0.229 ||1.065
|5 ||LeBron James ||5 ||202.7 ||0.244 ||1.032
|6 ||Chauncey Billups ||5 ||167.2 ||0.275 ||0.957
|7 ||Kevin Garnett ||3 ||104.3 ||0.408 ||0.887
|8 ||Anderson Varejao ||3 ||90.1 ||0.464 ||0.870
|9 ||Jason Kidd ||2 ||68.6 ||0.594 ||0.850
|10 ||Amar'e Stoudemire ||4 ||145.6 ||0.269 ||0.815
T-Mac never scored less than 40 points on Christmas and produced four times more than the average player on a per-minute basis.
His Christmas productivity was insane. It also ended seven years ago.
McGrady has not played on Christmas since the game in 2003, when he dominated a rookie named LeBron James with 0.647 WP48 compared to LeBron's -0.104 WP48. In the last seven years, however, his WP48 in the regular season has declined from 0.326 (superstar level) to 0.070 (below average) after multiple injuries and microfracture knee surgery robbed his game of its productivity.
Speaking of declines, T-Mac's understudy for the role of NBA Christmas Past is the declining Shaquille O'Neal.
Until this year, Shaq was the most productive Christmas player in the 21st century with 1.4 wins produced. This Christmas, however, he was the least productive player on the court in Orlando with an estimated -0.156 wins produced. As a result, Shaq is now the second-most productive Christmas player in the new millennium.
In terms of per-minute and single-game performance, T-Mac was always more productive than Shaq in Christmas games. Shaq's advantage, though, was that he played 150 more minutes on Christmas than T-Mac.
Matt Winick, the NBA VP of Scheduling and Game Operations, likes to schedule games with marquee teams and players on December 25th. Shaq has been fortunate enough to be a marquee name that played on marquee teams with other marquee players every season this decade.
The 66 teams scheduled on Christmas from 2000-2010 had the following primary characteristics:
- Made the playoffs the previous season (51 times);
- An All-Star player from previous season on the roster (six times);
- Previous season's scoring leader on the roster (three times);
- First pick from that summer's draft on the roster (three times); or
- Called Madison Square Garden home (two times).
McGrady's teams were never scheduled on Christmas after he left Orlando, while Shaq played more minutes on December 25th than every other player except Kobe Bryant.
Unlike Shaq, Kobe didn't take advantage of all the Christmas games he played in his prime. Kobe's production has been below average with just 0.082 WP48 in 11 games.
As he said after the Heat game on Saturday night, he always sucks on Christmas. In fact, his poor performance in that game (0.069 WP48) enabled Amar'e Stoudemire, who produced an estimated 0.139 WP48 vs. the Chicago Bulls in the first Christmas game on Saturday, to pass him for 10th place on the list of most productive Christmas players in the 2000s.
At 32 years old, Kobe was always going to decline like Shaq at some point and fall off the top 10 Christmas list. In fact, there are a few other players currently in the top 10 that will probably follow Kobe off the list and won't be considered for Ghosts of NBA Christmas Past 10 years from now (when there will probably be another lockout):
No. 4 Lamar Odom: As long as he remains on the Lakers, he'll get plenty of chances to play on Christmas, but at 31 years old, his performance will start to decline. His poor performance against the Heat (estimated -0.097 WP48) doesn't inspire any confidence that he'll be able to remain in the top 10, let alone the top five.
- No. 6 Chauncey Billups: Despite his age (34), he's still productive when the sleigh bells ring. He produced an estimated 0.320 WP48 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, but if Carmelo Anthony leaves Denver, then Chauncey probably won't get many opportunities to play on Christmas in the future.
No. 7 Kevin Garnett: The Big Ticket cracked the top 10 this year after unwrapping a big performance against the Orlando Magic on Saturday with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting, five rebounds and four steals for an estimated 0.439 WP48.
- No. 8 Anderson Varejao: Without the ability to ride LeBron's coattails into Christmas games, he probably won't get the opportunity to play on December 25th anytime soon.
No. 9 Jason Kidd: As the second-oldest player on the top 10 Christmas list, he's low-hanging fruit at No. 9. The Dallas Mavericks haven't played on Christmas in two years and may not be invited anytime soon with the oldest team in the league.