Christmas games have been an NBA tradition since 1947 when the New York Knickerbockers beat the Providence Steamrollers 89-75 at Madison Square Garden. That ho-hum affair was only seen by a few thousand fans, but this year’s five-game slate will be watched by tens of millions of viewers worldwide. They’ll be treated to a heavily-hyped rematch of last year’s finals between the Cavaliers and the Warriors, as well as four more star-studded games featuring some of the Association’s best and brightest. We’ve taken a look at this year’s scintillating schedule and come up with odds and props for all five games. Consider it our early Christmas gift to you!
Odds on which Christmas game will have the highest ratings
Cavaliers at Warriors: 3/2
Rockets at Thunder: 4/1
Timberwolves at Lakers: 6/1
76ers at Knicks: 9/1
Wizards at Celtics: 28/5
Imagine, if you will, that each game on the NBA’s Christmas Day schedule is like a gift. Washington at Boston is socks and underwear; Philadelphia at New York is the pen set you never asked for; Minnesota at the Lakers is a set of graphic novels that you’ll read and never think about again; Houston at Oklahoma City is a new jacket that looks good from far but is far from good; and Cleveland at Golden State is the $500, state-of-the-art drone you’ve written seven separate letters to Santa for. Sure, you got the same thing last year, but you loved it then and you’re going to love it again. As far as games go, this rematch of the last three NBA finals is the gift that truly keeps on giving.
Odds on which player will score the most points on Christmas Day
James Harden (Rockets): 9/2
Kevin Durant (Warriors): 5/1
Russell Westbrook (Thunder): 6/1
LeBron James (Cavaliers): 8/1
Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks): 10/1
Kyrie Irving (Celtics): 11/1
Joel Embiid (76ers): 15/1
Bradley Beal (Wizards): 20/1
Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves): 30/1
Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves): 40/1
The NBA’s Christmas Day schedule features three of the league’s top-five scorers, and there’s an excellent chance one of them will dazzle us with an offensive masterpiece. We’re leaning toward James Harden, who is leading the league in scoring at 31.6 points per game and exploded for 56 points earlier this year in a win over the Jazz. The Beard has yet to face his former team this season, but he averaged 20.5 points per game against Oklahoma City in 2016-17 and 33.8 points per game in 2015-16.
Odds anyone will break Bernard King’s Christmas Day record of 60 points: 25/1
Bernard King delivered a true Christmas miracle in 1984 when he scored 60 points in a 120-114 loss to the Nets at Madison Square Garden. The game is still talked about to this day, and for good reason, as no player has eclipsed the mark since. The closest anyone has come is Kevin Durant, who hung 44 points on the Nuggets in a 114-106 win in 2010.
KD is always a threat to go on a scoring spree, but if any single player is going to score 60 or more, we think it will be Russell Westbrook or Klay Thompson. Westbrook had four games of 50-plus points last year, while Thompson is a lights-out shooter who can put up points in bunches, just see the record-breaking 37-point quarter he had in 2015 or the 60 points he hung on the Pacers last season.
Odds on which player will get posterized on Christmas Day
Brook Lopez (Lakers): 7/3
Tristan Thompson (Cavs): 3/1
Clint Capela (Rockets): 4/1
Zaza Pachulia (Warriors): 10/1
Marcin Gortat (Wizards): 15/1
Taj Gibson (Timberwolves): 20/1
Brook Lopez found himself on the wrong side of a poster last December when Larry Nance Jr. pushed him aside and threw down a massive, PTSD-inducing one-handed jam. Nance won’t victimize him again this year as the two players are now on the same team, but it’s easy to imagine Lopez getting posterized by Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins, or Karl-Anthony Towns when the T-Wolves meet the Lakers. The 7-foot All-Star is simply too big and too slow to get out of the way of younger high-risers.
Over/Under on the number of times broadcasters wish viewers a Merry Christmas: 24.5
The real question is what you’ll hear more often: “Merry Christmas” or “the Thunder turn the ball over again.” Like many OKC passes, it’s a toss-up.
Over/under on the number of times broadcasters mention Hanukkah or Kwanzaa: 2.5
Unlike past years, Hanukkah and Christmas do not overlap in 2017, making it far less likely that broadcasters will send a shout out to Jewish viewers across the country. Kwanzaa is another matter altogether. The week-long celebration begins on December 26th so you’ll likely hear a couple of “Happy Kwanzaas” during the final game of the day.
Odds Russell Westbrook will record a triple-double on Christmas Day: 9/2
Few players love the spotlight more than Russell Westbrook, who treats every press conference like it’s New York Fashion Week. The reigning MVP tends to save his best performances for nationally televised games and there’s a good chance he’ll try to record his tenth triple-double of the season on Christmas Day as millions of viewers cheers him on from coast to coast (or quietly mumble how OKC would be better if Russ actually facilitated for this teammates). After all, it would be the fashionable thing to do.
Over/Under on the number of ugly Christmas sweaters worn by broadcasters and sideline reporters: 4.5
There’s an excellent chance you’ll see Marv Albert or Mike Breen sporting a garishly over-the-top sweater as they call their respective games. We just hope that Albert chooses something that tastefully complements his hairpiece.
Odds on which celebrities will get the most screen time in Los Angeles
LaVar Ball: 3/2
Denzel Washington: 5/1
Jack Nicholson: 12/1
David Beckham: 14/1
Kanye West: 17/1
Kendrick Lamar: 20/1
George Lopez: 25/1
Arsenio Hall: 50/1
Remember the good old days when you needed to have an actual talent to be considered a celebrity? Now all you need is an abrasive personality and a Twitter account. Love him or hate him, LaVar Ball will likely get more screen time than any of his fellow celebs on Christmas Day as he sits on the sideline berating refs and second-guessing the play-calling of Luke Walton.
Odds on which celebrities will get the most screen time in New York
Spike Lee 11/9
Ben Stiller: 7/1
Tracy Morgan: 9/1
Howard Stern: 10/1
Dave Chapelle: 12/1
Leslie Jones: 15/1
Floyd Mayweather: 25/1
Dustin Hoffman: 50/1
Woody Allen: 75/1
The real reason the Knicks have never had a mascot is because they have Spike Lee. The 60-year-old director has been a staple at MSG since the 1980s and has inserted himself in nearly as many big moments at the Mecca as Patrick Ewing and John Starks. Expect him to get plenty of close-ups on Christmas Day as he cheers on his beloved Knickerbockers.