Christmas Day is all about making memories with family and friends, but there have also been plenty of notable Dec. 25 moments in the world of sports over the years. We take a look back at some of the greatest milestones, comebacks, matchups and victories to happen on the holiday. Who knows what sports presents Santa might have in store for us this year?
1984: Bernard King scores 60
New York Knicks Hall of Fame forward Bernard King scored 60 points in a 120-114 loss to the New Jersey Nets in the greatest individual scoring performance in Christmas Day history. King joined Wilt Chamberlain (59 points in 1961) and Rick Barry (50 points in 1966) to become the third player to score at least 50 points on the holiday.
1985: Patrick Ewing leads a comeback
Rookie Patrick Ewing scored 32 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Knicks rallied from a 25-point deficit to shock the Boston Celtics 113-104 in double overtime. The Knicks finished the season below .500, while the Celtics went on to win the NBA championship behind Larry Bird.
1993: Scottie Pippen gets it done
Scottie Pippen proved he was up to the task without Michael Jordan, who had retired the previous summer. Pippen tallied 28 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists against Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and the Orlando Magic. The icing on the cake was Toni Kukoc hitting a winner to give the Chicago Bulls a 95-93 victory.
2004: Shaq vs. Kobe
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal faced off for the first time since Shaq’s trade to the Miami Heat. The matchup lived up to the hype as the Heat extended their winning streak to 11 games with a 104-102 overtime victory against the Los Angeles Lakers. Miami overcame Bryant’s 42-point performance behind double-doubles from O’Neal (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (29 points, 10 assists).
2008: Phil Jackson’s 1,000th win
In the first meeting since Boston defeated the Lakers for the 2008 NBA title, LA put an end to the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak. Bryant put on a show with 27 points and 9 rebounds and Pau Gasol scored seven points in the final three minutes to lead the Lakers to a 92-83 victory. Phil Jackson recorded his 1,000th victory, the fastest head coach to accomplish the feat and the sixth coach at the time to reach the milestone.
2010: LeBron’s triple-double
LeBron James tallied 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for a triple-double in his first Christmas Day game with Miami, a 96-80 victory over the Lakers. James became the fourth player to notch a triple-double on Christmas, joining Oscar Robertson, John Havlicek and Billy Cunningham. Russell Westbrook joined the list in 2013 and Draymond Green did so in 2017.
2011: Derrick Rose’s winner
Christmas 2011 doubled as Opening Day due to the lockout that shortened the NBA season to 66 games. It was Luol Deng’s defense that allowed the Bulls to claim the 88-87 victory with a late Derrick Rose floating shot. Kobe Bryant scored 28 points on 21 shots, but an errant pass at the end of the game that Deng stole gave Rose (22 points) the chance to take down the Lakers.
2016: Finals rematch
The first matchup between the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors since their NBA Finals series the previous June featured more drama. The Cavaliers rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Warriors 109-108. Kyrie Irving hit the winner over Klay Thompson with 3.4 seconds left to spoil Kevin Durant’s 36-point outing for Golden State. LeBron James led the Cavs with 31 points and 13 rebounds.
2021: Kemba Walker makes New York Knicks history with a triple-double performance
Walker stepped up in a big way for the Knicks with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a 101-87 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Walker’s performance was the first triple-double on Christmas Day in Knicks franchise history. He also became the seventh player to log a Christmas Day triple-double in NBA history.
1971: Longest game in NFL history
The Miami Dolphins prevailed in a back-and-forth battle during a 1971 AFC divisional playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs. After a scoreless first overtime, Miami’s Garo Yepremian ended the NFL’s longest game ever with a 37-yard field goal in double overtime to give the Dolphins a 27-24 victory. Chiefs running back Ed Podolak had one of the greatest postseason performances, totaling 350 all-purpose yards.
1994: Don Shula breaks the record
The Miami Dolphins defeated the Detroit Lions 27-20 in Miami to claim the AFC East division title. The victory also gave Don Shula his record 319th regular-season win, putting him ahead of George Halas.
2004: Redemption for Lawrence Tynes
After missing two field goal attempts earlier in the game, place-kicker Lawrence Tynes redeemed himself by nailing a 38-yard field goal with 22 seconds left that put the Chiefs up 31-30 over the Oakland Raiders. Dante Hall had returned a kickoff 49 yards to get Kansas City in excellent field position for the winning score.
2005: Bears win NFC North
The Chicago Bears’ defense made four interceptions, including two by Chris Harris, as the team claimed the NFC North title and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs with a 24-17 win over the Green Bay Packers. The victory marked the first time since 1991 that the Bears swept the division-rival Packers.
2016: Steelers claim division title
With the clock winding down, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Antonio Brown, who caught the ball at the Baltimore Ravens’ 1. As he was being hit, Brown stretched the ball across the goal line for a touchdown that gave the Steelers a 31-27 win and a second AFC North title in three seasons.
2020: Alvin Kamara ties NFL single-game rushing touchdown record
The New Orleans Saints running back ran all over the Minnesota Vikings, finishing with 155 yards rushing and six touchdowns in a 52-33 victory on Christmas Day. Kamara’s six rushing scores tied Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals (1929) for the most in a single game in NFL history. The Saints won their fourth consecutive NFC South division championship with the win.
2002: First woman to play in Division IA game
During the 2002 SEGA Sports Las Vegas Bowl, New Mexico’s Katie Hnida became the first woman to play in an NCAA Division IA game, but her extra-point attempt was blocked by UCLA. She later became the first woman to score in a Division IA game in a 72-8 rout of Texas State in 2003.
2003: Triple-overtime thriller
Hawai’i and Houston were in an offensive shootout and tied 34-34 at the end of regulation in the Hawai’i Bowl. Each team scored a touchdown on the first two possessions of overtime and Hawai’i got the ball first in the third overtime. Michael Brewster scored on an 8-yard touchdown run, but the Warriors’ two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful. However, Houston’s third overtime possession ended on downs, giving Hawai’i the victory.
1971: NHL ends holiday tradition
Beginning in the 1920s and lasting until 1971, there was an NHL game played every Christmas Day. The NHL ended the tradition of giving its players a holiday break. On the final Christmas that games were played, there were six, and the last goal scored was by Stan Gilbertson, as his California Golden Seals defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-1. New York Rangers fans might not have been too happy to see the tradition come to an end. Their team was 24-11-2 on the holiday, including a 16-game unbeaten streak from 1928 through 1950.