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2021 Thanksgiving Day NBA schedule: games, time, TV, how to watch and stream

The NFL has been a source of Thanksgiving entertainment for nearly 80 years. The Cowboys and Lions will take the stage yet again, but what about the NBA?

The NFL has been a source of Thanksgiving entertainment for nearly 80 years. The Cowboys and Lions will take the stage yet again, but what about the NBA?
Soobum ImUSA TODAY Sports

Whats the most important part of Thanksgiving? Is it the turkey? Is it the stuffing or gravy? Is it family? It’s probably a mix of all those things, but without Turkey Day football there would be a fraction of the festivities. But what about basketball? Why are there no NBA games on such a big day for sports?

Thanksgiving and football: a match made in heaven

The NFL has become synonymous with America’s most gluttonous holiday. In just about every household across the country during the preparation, the feast, and the post meal food coma there is sure to be a football game on TV in the background.

The NFL is just one major sports leagues in the thick of their season. The NBA is a little over a month in and for the first time since the start of the season there will be no games on the fourth Thursday of November.

So why won’t the NBA showcase games on a day where the entire nation will be in front of their televisions?

NBA gets a day off a month into season

It might be because the league wants to give their players a bit of a rest, considering the NBA Christmas Day slate is always pretty extensive. So having a day off after a month and a half of non stop actions is well welcomed for the leagues top teams.

While rest might be important, there is a far more fundamental and simple reason the NBA doesn’t play on Thanksgiving. The NFL has a monopoly on television ratings during Turkey Day. Those who aren’t watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special in the evening are watching football.

It doesn’t even matter if the household is not a pig skin crazed family there’s a good chance the Lions or the Cowboys will be on TV. Why? Because it’s tradition, and what’s Thanksgiving without tradition?

NFL is a ratings monster on Turkey Day

Last year’s Dallas-Washington game drew over 30 million viewers, which was the largest audience drawn before last season’s postseason. It was the 17th largest audience on a Thanksgiving day game in the NFL. The top ratings game on Turkey Day came in 1993 when the Dolphins played the Cowboys before a TV audience of 38.4 million.

The Detroit Lions started the tradition of NFL games almost a century ago. In 1934, Lions owner G.A. Richards scheduled a Thanksgiving game against the two time reigning champion Chicago Bears on November 29th of that year. The Lions have hosted 80 Thanksgiving games since then, going 37-42-2.

The Dallas Cowboys followed suit in 1966 when the played their first Thanksgiving game, beating the Cleveland Browns 26-14 at the Cotton Bowl. They have played every Turkey Day since except for two years, 1975 and 1977.

NBA will have to wait until Christmas to get holiday spotlight

The Lions and the Bears will start the festivities at 12:30 p.m. ET, followed by the Cowboys and the Raiders at 4:30 p.m. ET, and the Saints and the Bills will be the night cap to end a marathon day of Thanksgiving football.

The NBA will have to wait until Christmas to get their time in the spotlight on the holidays. The Knicks will host the Hawks to start the day, while the Bucks and Celtics follow. And in the west the Suns will take on the Warriors, while the Lakers host the Nets and the Mavericks travel to Utah to take on the Jazz in the last game of the Christmas slate.