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Why do NBA play on Christmas Day?

Santa has already been down your chimney with some shiny new toys or a lump of coal, and either way, basketball fans are getting ready for the tip-off.

Why do NBA play on Christmas Day?
Harry HowAFP

Are you ready for today’s Christmas Day 2021 offering from the NBA? We definitely are! That said, our excitement about the coverage was paused momentarily as we wondered why there were professional games on when most other people are at home celebrating the festive day with their families. So we had a look at the background to this tradition.

Why NBA players work on Christmas Day

It hasn’t always been this way on 25 December. Actually, it pretty much has! Ever since the league’s second season, which was way back in 1947, there has been at least one game played in the National Basketball Association. That first match-up was held at the famous Madison Square Gardens and saw the New York Knicks overcome the Providence Steamrollers (you know them, right?) by 89-75.

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Since then, fans have been able to enjoy the best players and teams battling it out, geographical distance being considered in the earlier days and television ratings having a much bigger say in recent decades.

Christmas Day NBA: The exception

Despite the 1947-2021 and counting tradition going strong, there was one year that saw no action take place. No, that wasn’t due to a recent pandemic but instead was because of a lockout which saw half the 1998/99 season cancelled, including 25 December.

NBA games on Christmas Day 2021:

On the road
Staying at home
Time (ET)TV
Atlanta HawksNew York Knicks12:00 p.m.ESPN
Boston CelticsMilwaukee Bucks2:30 p.m.ABC
Golden State WarriorsPhoenix Suns5:00 p.m.ABC
Brooklyn NetsLos Angeles Lakers8:00 p.m.ABC/ESPN
Dallas MavericksUtah Jazz10:30 p.m.ESPN

Do NFL, MLB or NHL play on Christmas Day?

The simplest answer to this question is ‘no’. That said, you will occasionally get some football action if the 25th falls on a weekend, but even that doesn’t guarantee it. MLS is in its off-season so there are no mitts required when festive stockings are out, while the National Hockey League agreed not to play on Christmas Day, as well as the two days either side.


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