NBA Christmas Day Preview: Your Guide to the Big Games, Stars, and Storylines on Christmas

Chicago Bulls at Milwaukee Bucks, USA - 15 Dec 2017 David Nwaba and Giannis Antetokounmpo 15 Dec 2017
Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is here and that means some big NBA games on the schedule. The matchups this season include a range of big stars in intriguing storylines, including the battle of Los Angeles as the Clippers and Lakers play at the Staples Center with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard facing off.

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The NBA will be playing on Christmas for the 72nd time, a tradition that started way back in 1947, making this one of the time-honored traditions in American sports. ESPN and ABC will be broadcasting the games on TV, while ESPN Radio will have coverage of two of the games as well. This year there will be 5 games on Christmas Day for the 12th year in a row, giving fans plenty to watch as they celebrate the holiday.

Check out more about the NBA and the Christmas games at

Here’s a look at the full NBA Christmas schedule:

  • Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
  • Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
  • Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors (5 p.m. ET, ABC)
  • Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)
  • New Orleans Pelicans vs. Denver Nuggets (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)


For some more Christmas fun, here’s a video from the NBA for the holiday games, courtesy of the NBA:

  • “Ballin’ in a Christmas Wonderland” features multi-platinum performing artist Normani singing a reimagined basketball rendition of the classic holiday “Winter Wonderland.” See what happens when the magic of the season hits the court, as the league’s biggest names dribble, dunk and pass in a festive Christmas Wonderland.  
  • The spot features players from the five Christmas Day matchups, including LeBron James (LA Lakers), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers), Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets), Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), D’Angelo Russell (Golden State Warriors) and Anthony Davis (LA Lakers).
  • Here’s a look:

Here’s a preview of the NBA Christmas games, with stats and info courtesy of the NBA:

Boston Celtics vs. Toronto Raptors (12 p.m. ET, ESPN):

  • All-Star point guards Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry are both set to make their Christmas Day debuts.
  • Boston is tied with Detroit for the third-most Christmas Day appearances (32 entering this year).
  • The Raptors were coached by Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens when they last played on Christmas Day (2001).
Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics, USA - 09 May 2018 Jaylen Brown and JJ Redick 9 May 2018
Cj Gunther/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Philadelphia 76ers (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC):

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a career-high 52 points against Philadelphia on March 17, 2019.
  • Last year’s victory over the Knicks marked the Bucks’ first Christmas Day game since 1977
  • Joel Embiid has averaged 29.5 points, 16.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in two games on Christmas Day.
Milwaukee Bucks at Boston Celtics, USA - 18 Oct 2017 Giannis Antetokounmpo 18 Oct 2017
Cj Gunther/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors (5 p.m. ET, ABC):

  • The Western Conference rivals will meet on Christmas Day for the first time.
  • James Harden’s 41-point effort on Christmas Day last year was the first of his five straight 40-point games.
  • Golden State will make its seventh consecutive Christmas Day appearance and ninth in the last 10 years.
Houston Rockets at Atlanta Hawks, USA - 03 Nov 2017 James Harden and Taurean Prince 3 Nov 2017
Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Los Angeles Lakers (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN)

  • The Clippers are 24-5 against the Lakers in the last 29 meetings dating to the 2012-13 season.
  • The Clippers have no players left on the roster from their most recent Christmas Day appearance (2016).
  • Kyle Kuzma shares the record for most three-pointers made in a Christmas Day game (six in 2017).

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Denver Nuggets (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN):

  • New Orleans is seeking its first Christmas Day victory; Denver’s one Christmas win came in 1994
  • JJ Redick has appeared in nine Christmas Day games, tied for the third most among active players.
  • ESPN’s Jalen Rose played for the Nuggets the last time they hosted a game on Christmas Day (1994).
New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers, USA - 05 Mar 2017 Jrue Holiday, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and D'Angelo Russell 5 Mar 2017
Mike Nelson/EPA/Shutterstock


Go behind the numbers on Christmas Day with these stats and fun nuggets of information from the NBA:

Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors, Oakland, USA - 17 Oct 2017 James Harden, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson 17 Oct 2017
ohn G Mabanglo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

338 – LeBron James ranks third on the career Christmas Day scoring list with 338 points, behind No. 1 Kobe Bryant (395) and No. 2 Oscar Robertson (377).

140 – NBA teams have conducted 140 NBA Cares Season of Giving events this holiday season, serving more than 130,000 meals and distributing more than 10,000 gifts.

60 – Bernard King scored a Christmas Day-record 60 points for the New York Knicks against the New Jersey Nets in 1984.

31 – Philadelphia will host a Christmas Day game for the first time in 31 years.

30/17 – There are 30 international players from 17 countries on Christmas Day teams’ rosters.

28 – Christmas Day rosters feature 28 players who have been NBA All-Stars.  NBA All-Star Voting presented by Google begins on Dec. 25 at 11 a.m. ET.

25 – This Christmas will mark the 25th anniversary of Scottie Pippen leading the Chicago Bulls to a 107-104 overtime win over the Knicks.  Pippen had 36 points, 16 rebounds and five steals.

23 – The Lakers have the most wins on Christmas Day with 23.

15 – Clippers head coach Doc Rivers has been a part of 15 Christmas Day games – four as a player and 11 as a head coach.

14 – James will play his 14th Christmas Day game, moving into sole possession of second place in NBA history.  Bryant holds the record with 16.

12 – The NBA will have five Christmas Day games for the 12th year in a row.

10 – Dwyane Wade has the most Christmas Day victories for a player with 10 – a record that James can match with a win this year.

 Six players have recorded a triple-double in a game on Christmas Day: Draymond Green (2017), Russell Westbrook (2013), James (2010), Billy Cunningham (1970), John Havlicek (1967) and Robertson (1960, 1961, 1963, 1967).

4 – Christmas Day will feature four Kia NBA MVPs: the Rockets’ Harden and Westbrook, the Lakers’ James and the Bucks’ Antetokounmpo.

– Three 2019 NBA All-Stars are set to make their Christmas Day debuts this year: Denver’s Nikola Jokić, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Boston’s Kemba Walker.

– The Jump’s new pregame show on ABC will air for the first time prior to the Lakers-Clippers game, while Hoop Streams, ESPN’s new digital onsite pregame, will make its debut on the ESPN App and ESPN’s Twitter and YouTube platforms.

NBA Cares Season of Giving Highlights

Just like on Thanksgiving, NBA players and teams, including the teams playing on Christmas Day, have continued their efforts during NBA Cares Season of Giving to make the holidays brighter for children and families in need. On Dec. 25, all teams playing will also host special gift-giving presentations for children from local community organizations prior to tip-off.


  • Boston Celtics players Jaylen Brown, Enes Kanter, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and more visited children at Boston Children’s Hospital to bring gifts, have fun, and spread holiday cheer. (12/5)


  • Milwaukee Bucks players Pat Connaughton, Eric Beldsoe, Wes Matthews and Donte DiVincenzo took local youth from Silver Spring Neighborhood Center for a holiday shopping experience at Kohls. (12/10)

  • 76ers’ Josh Richardson brought 10 kids from TAPS, an organization that provides support to families grieving the loss of loved ones serving in the military, to Reebok in Boston, giving them $500 each for some holiday shopping. (12/11)


    • Houston’s Austin Rivers hosted Big Brothers Big Sisters for holiday shopping. (12/6)

    • Stephen Curry and his wife Ayesha surprised Solomon Howard at the East Oakland Boxing Association’s after-school program with new equipment and gifts as part of Ellen’s Greatest Night of Giveaways. (12/11)


    • Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma packed holiday meals for senior citizens as part of the Meals on Wheels program in LA. (11/28)

  • LA Clippers players JaMychal Green, Montrezl Harrell, Ivica Zubac and Moe Harkless provided hot Thanksgiving meals and clothes to more than 50 families at the St. Joseph Center for the team’s Teamwork at the Table event. (11/19). See more here.


    • New Orleans Pelicans rookie Jaxson Hayes visited the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Louisiana to host a LEGO party for the holidays! (12/2)

  • Denver Nuggets player Gary Harris hosted children and families from the Joshua School, a school for children on the autism spectrum, for a holiday movie experience, gifting the families Nuggets tickets, sensory-friendly gifts, popcorn and soda. (12/13)

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