NBA Christmas Day duels

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NBA Christmas Day duels

Kobe Bryant has played on Christmas Day more than any other player in NBA history with 16 appearances.

Kobe Bryant has played on Christmas Day more than any other player in NBA history with 16 appearances.

Photo courtesy of ew.com

Kobe Bryant has played on Christmas Day more than any other player in NBA history with 16 appearances.

Photo courtesy of ew.com

Photo courtesy of ew.com

Kobe Bryant has played on Christmas Day more than any other player in NBA history with 16 appearances.

Jarod Hamilton, theSCORE Editor

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Christmas Day is one of the best days of the year. The season of giving is also the season of receiving. Family, gifts, food and five primetime NBA matchups to cap off the day. The holiday is considered to be the epitome of the 82-game NBA season as the league’s best stars matchup against each other.

If you have ever found yourself ignoring invites to Christmas dinner or simply just ignoring your phone just so you could see some of the legendary duels that have taken place on Christmas Day no one can blame you, with that being said we will take a look at some of the best duels that have taken place on Dec. 25 (in no particular order).

 

McGrady’s 43.3 points per game (min. 2 games) is the highest average on the holiday in NBA history per USA Today.

Tracy McGrady vs LeBron James (2003)

Very rarely have fans anticipated a game between an Orlando Magic team which started the season 1-19 versus which was selected No.1 overall in the previous (2003) draft in the Cleveland Cavaliers. Luckily for fans on that Christmas, they were privileged in seeing the reigning scoring champion Tracy Mcgrady face a rookie Lebron James. McGrady posted a jaw-dropping 41 points, 11 rebounds, and eight assists and James posted 34 points and six assists on 46% shooting.

The Magic would win this game and only 13 more after this enticing matchup and finish 21-61. McGrady, despite only playing 67 games won the scoring title for the second consecutive season averaging 28.9 points per game in what would be his last season in Orlando. The Cavs lone bright spot of the 03-04 season, James, finished his rookie season averaging 20.9 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game per basketball reference and win the NBA Rookie of the Year award. 

 

O’Neal played against Bryant on Christmas Day from 2004-2006, O’Neal’s Heat won all three matchups.

Kobe Bryant vs Shaquille O’Neal (2004)

In a highly-anticipated heavyweight bout, the new-look Lakers led by Kobe Bryant faced off against former Laker and perennial All-Star Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat in the first game between the two since O’Neal left Los Angeles during the previous offseason.

O’Neal and Bryant won three NBA championships and appeared in four NBA Finals in eight seasons together but an open and often public feud would lead O’Neal to leave following the 2004 Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons.

In the Christmas Day matchup, Bryant would shoot 12 for 30 and score 42 points in what looked like a concerted effort to show his former co-star that he was more capable of shouldering the load as “the man” for the Purple & Gold. Bryant also would grab six boards but committed nine turnovers while O’Neal put up 24 points and 11 rebounds.

In a game full of moments none bigger came then when Bryant drew a foul on O’Neal causing O’Neal to foul out with 2:15 left in the fourth quarter. The Heat would win in overtime 104-102 after Bryant missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.  

 

Rose would lead the Bulls to a 50-16 record during this NBA Lockout shortened season and when league MVP honors.

Derrick Rose vs Kobe Bryant (2011)

This matchup was exactly what most Christmas Day matchups contain, two big-market teams, facing off on primetime except due to the NBA Lockout this was also opening night in the NBA as well.

The Lakers were last seen getting swept off the court by eventual champions, the Dallas Mavericks, while Rose and company were coming off of a league-best 60 wins and an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Miami Heat.

In the Christmas Day affair, Bryant would go on to score 28 points, seven boards, and six assists but again would struggle with turnovers on the regular season’s premier stage with eight turnovers. Rose scored 22 points on an efficient 9 of 13 shooting and score the game-winning shot by hitting a 10-foot floater over seven-footer, Pau Gasol. The Bulls went on to win 88-87 in the Staples Center in a game known for jump-starting Rose’s MVP push.

Rose finished the season as MVP at 22-years old.  Bryant was selected as an All-NBA First Team member for the 10th time in his career during the 2011-2012 season but that season would also mark the last time he physically played in the postseason.