Just like football on Thanksgiving Day, watching basketball on Christmas Day is a tradition. The NBA makes these games special for its fans by pairing the league’s best and most storied franchises, having the game’s brightest stars compete when most people are off from work.
Past Christmas Day matchups have offered their share of drama, pairing teams boasting a superstar who once played for their game day opponents. For example, LeBron James — who won two NBA titles with the Miami Heat — opted to re-sign with his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, prior to the 2014-15 season. James and the Cavaliers faced the Heat on Christmas Day during the 2014-15 season, falling to Miami 101-91. Although James and his team lost, his inspired-by-the-holiday Nike LeBron 12 sneakers were a winner on the court.
NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal was in a similar situation in 2004, facing the Los Angeles Lakers, his former squad, for the first time while playing for the Miami Heat. Wearing his namesake line’s Dunkman silhouette, O’Neal dropped 24 points on his former squad, adding 11 rebounds to his stat line.
However, the drama of players competing against their former teams is just one storyline the league has historically followed for Christmas Day matchups.
James and the Cleveland Cavaliers appeared in back-to-back all-time classics against Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. On Christmas Day during the 2015-16 season, in a rematch from the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 89-83 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. Brands including Under Armour, Nike and Anta delivered looks inspired by the holiday that sneakerheads wished they saw at home under their Christmas trees.
The next season, James and the Cavaliers — the defending NBA champions — would defeat Curry and the Warriors 109-108. On feet, James had his Nike LeBron 14 laced up and Curry rocked his Under Armour Curry 3.
Some recent years had more hits than others. In 2019, for example, there were several eye-catching kicks including the “China Moon” Nike LeBron 7 worn by James, Joel Embiid’s pair of the Under Armour UA Hovr Havoc 2, the “Money Stacks” New Balance OMN1S laced up by Kawhi Leonard, the Nike Zoom Freak 1 “Soul Glo” worn by Giannis Antetokounmpo and several more.
Other notable sneaker moments from NBA Christmas Day action include kicks worn by legends of the game including Kobe Bryant (Nike Kobe 6 “Grinch”), James (Kith x Nike LeBron 15 “Rose Gold”), Curry (Under Armour Curry 2 “Northern Lights”), Kyrie Irving (Nike Kyrie 2 “Christmas”), Klay Thompson (Anta KT2 “Christmas”) and others.
Click through the gallery to check out other top NBA Christmas Day moments.