NBA games on Christmas Day

Why does the NBA play on Christmas Day? Long Christmas story short – it’s a tradition and that the NBA can bank on. And I mean, BANK.

It’s no coincidence that ABC debuts their NBA TV programming by broadcasting two or three games on Christmas day. Historically, the NBA has some of their highest ratings during the season for their Christmas day games.

High ratings means lots of viewers which means that the networks can charge higher and higher rates for 30 second commercials during those games. And that means more dollars. And that means Christmas spirit for the NBA.

Now, ABC leverages December 25th to showcase marquee matchups in the league — generally the games feature a return of a superstar or two powerhouses facing off.  For example, some of the storylines used on Christmas:

  • 2014: Cleveland at Miami (The return of Lebron)
  • 2013: Miami vs. Los Angeles Lakers (LeBron vs. Kobe Bryant)
  • 2012: Miami vs. Oklahoma City (Matchup between the two top teams)
  • 2011: Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat (Champions vs. Runner Up)
  • 2010: Miami vs. Los Angeles Lakers (LeBron vs. Kobe Bryant)

ABC (and NBC before that) doesn’t show one NBA game through all of October and November, and none throughout most of December. Not until Christmas day do the networks include NBA games into their schedules.

History of NBA Games on Christmas

In the NBA’s second season in 1947, the New York Knicks played the Providence Steamrollers at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day. The Knicks defeated Providence 89–75 and the NBA on Christmas tradition was born. Now, sitting down and watching NBA games on the birth of Jesus Christ has become as customary as opening presents and Jewish people going to Chinese restaurants.

Much like College Bowl games played on New Year’s Day and the NFL on Thanksgiving, the NBA now is the sporting event on Christmas.

Outside of the occasional complaints, most NBA players are resigned to the idea of playing on such a important family (and religious) holiday. In fact, it seems that players nowadays almost are excited at the opportunity to be featured on December 25th.

Check out the NBA’s TV Schedule for 2014-15 season.