Why does the NBA play games on Christmas Day every year?

Why does the NBA play games on Christmas Day every year?

Like trees, lights and presents, watching NBA games on Christmas Day has become a tradition in many American households. 

The 2023-24 NBA season will mark the 76th time the league will play games on Christmas. 

The Sacramento Kings won’t play on Christmas this season, making it the 20th consecutive year where they don’t have a game on the holiday. During the Sacramento era of the Kings, the team has played on Christmas only twice. 

Despite this, the holiday will have no shortage of action with five NBA games scheduled. 

When and why did the NBA decide to schedule games on the holiday? 

A tradition is born

The NBA began playing games on Christmas in 1947, a year after the league’s inception when it was known at the time as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The league became known as the NBA two seasons later. 

During the 1947-48 season, the BAA only fielded eight teams, with none of them on the West Coast.

Three games were played on Christmas 1947 with victories by the Baltimore Bullets, New York Knicks and Washington Capitols. During the league’s early days, matchups were based on regional proximity to cut down on holiday travel and allow players to spend time with their families. 

The only year when games weren’t played on Christmas Day was in 1998 due to the lockout-shortened season, which began in February 1999.  

With a tradition established, the league began nationally televising Christmas games in 1967 with the San Diego Rockets hosting the Los Angeles Lakers in the contest. 

As professional basketball gained popularity over the years, the NBA has showcased the best teams, including the defending champions, and top players to a nationally televised audience. 

How the Kings have fared on Christmas

The Kings officially joined the NBA as the Rochester Royals during the 1948-49 season when the league expanded to 12 teams. 

The franchise’s first official Christmas Day game was in 1948 against the St. Louis Bombers. The team played on the holiday in 1956 and from 1958 to 1972. 

With the change to Kansas City, the Kings played on Christmas Day each year from 1975 to 1978.

The Kings returned to Christmas Day action in 2002 against the Lakers in a rematch of the Western Conference Finals from the previous season. 

The last time the Kings played on Christmas was also the only time they hosted a Christmas game in Sacramento when they welcomed the Dallas Mavericks to Arco Arena in 2003.

In Christmas games, the Kings are 1-1 in the Sacramento era and are 18-11 all-time. 

Dating back to its days in Rochester, below is a list of Christmas Day results for the Kings franchise:

•1948: Rochester Royals 90, St. Louis Bombers 82

•1949: Rochester Royals 88, Boston Celtics 79

•1950: Rochester Royals 90, Boston Celtics 77

•1951: Rochester Royals 87, Indianapolis Olympians 78

•1952: Rochester Royals 93, Philadelphia Warriors 78

•1953: Rochester Royals 73, Philadelphia Warriors 65

•1954: Rochester Royals 80, Fort Wayne Pistons 73

•1955: Syracuse Nationals 111, Rochester Royals 96

•1956: Rochester Royals 98, Syracuse Nationals 93

•1958: St. Louis Hawks 100, Cincinnati Royals 92

•1959: Cincinnati Royals 121, Detroit Pistons 103

•1960: Cincinnati Royals 126, Detroit Pistons 119

•1961: Los Angeles Lakers 141, Cincinnati Royals 127

•1962: Cincinnati Royals 131, Detroit Piston 120

•1963: Cincinnati Royals 113, St. Louis Hawks 107

•1964: Cincinnati Royals 130, St. Louis Hawks 125 (overtime)

•1965: Cincinnati Royals 119, San Francisco Warriors 113

•1966: San Francisco Warriors 124, Cincinnati Royals 112

•1967: Cincinnati Royals 118, Seattle SuperSonics 112

•1968: Cincinnati Royals 103, Chicago Bulls 98

•1969: San Francisco Warriors 124, Cincinnati Royals 120 (overtime)

•1970: Cincinnati Royals 117, Cleveland Cavaliers 100 

•1971: Boston Celtics 99, Cincinnati Royals 94

•1972: Milwaukee Bucks 104, Kansas City-Omaha Kings 99

•1975: Phoenix Suns 122, Kansas City Kings 111

•1976: Chicago Bulls 96, Kansas City Kings 91

•1977: Milwaukee Bucks 131, Kansas City Kings 122

•2002: Sacramento Kings 105, Los Angeles Lakers 99

•2003: Dallas Mavericks 111, Sacramento Kings 103

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