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NBA Christmas Day

NBA Christmas Day 2018: Best superstar Christmas Day debuts ever

Giannis Antetokounmpo, an MVP candidate this season, will make his Christmas Day debut in the sixth season of his career.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, an MVP candidate this season, will make his Christmas Day debut in the sixth season of his career. (Getty Images)

In his sixth season, Giannis Antetokounmpo is finally set to make his Christmas Day debut. If that wasn't enough, he's doing it under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

He's not alone, though. On Christmas Day of the 2018-19 season, there are several players making their debuts. Utah's Donovan Mitchell, Portland's backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and the Lakers' Lonzo Ball are a few of the big names that will make their Christmas Day debuts this year.

Before they do, let's take a look back at some of the greatest Christmas Day debuts by the league's greatest stars.

Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors - 1959

Stat Line: 45 points and 34 rebounds vs. Syracuse Nationals (129-121, W)

Given the incredible numbers Wilt put up over the course of his 14-year career, it should come as no surprise that this isn't his greatest Christmas Day performance.

But his stat line of 45 points and 34 rebounds on Christmas Day of 1959 is incredible for anyone, mind alone a rookie.

Making it even sweeter? It came in a win.

Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals - 1960

Stat Line: 32 points, 16 assists and 15 rebounds vs. Detroit Pistons (126-119, W)

Robertson became the first player in NBA history to average a triple-double in the 1961-62 season, but he came close even in his rookie year (1960-61).

As a rookie, Robertson averaged 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game. He had one of his best games of the season on Christmas Day, when he scored 32 points, dished out 16 assist and pulled down 15 rebounds.

Like Chamberlain, his efforts went to good use, as the Royals outlasted the Pistons.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks - 1971

Stat Line: 38 points vs. Detroit Pistons (120-118, L OT)

Coming off a year where he won the league MVP, the NBA title and the Finals MVP, nobody could stop Kareem from making his Christmas Day debut, and he didn't disappoint.

Unfortunately for him, it wasn't enough for the Bucks to win in overtime.

Larry Bird, Boston Celtics - 1980

Stat Line: 28 points vs. New York Knicks (117-108, W)

Bird made his Christmas Day debut in the same season he won his first championship.

With a team-high 28 points, Bird propelled the Celtics past the Knicks.

Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers - 1981

Stat Line: 18 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals vs. Phoenix Suns (104-101, W)

Despite a Finals MVP performance as a rookie in the 1980 NBA Finals, Magic Johnson had to wait until his third season to make his Christmas Day debut.

Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks - 1985

Stat Line: 32 points, 11 rebounds vs. Boston Celtics (113-104, W 2OT)

In 1985, Patrick Ewing made his Christmas Day debut as a rookie and did so in impressive fashion with a 32-point, 11-rebound double-double.

Ewing did it in a double-overtime come-from-behind win against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, too.

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls - 1986

Stat Line: 30 points, 6 steals, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks vs. New York Knicks (86-85, L)

Arguably the greatest player ever, Michael Jordan made his Christmas Day debut in his second season against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks.

Despite putting up a stellar box score, Jordan and the Bulls came up short by one point.

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets - 1993

Stat Line: 27 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 blocks and 3 steals vs. Phoenix Suns (91-111, L)

Olajuwon was at the peak of his powers in 1993-94 and he proved it on Christmas Day with an all-around performance of 27 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, four blocks and three steals.

It just wasn't enough to overcome a combined 74 points from Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson.

Tracy McGrady, Orlando Magic - 2000

Stat Line: 43 points and 9 rebounds vs. Indiana Pacers (103-93, L)

After three seasons with the Toronto Raptors, Tracy McGrady made his Christmas Day debut in his first season with the Orlando Magic.

While he put up 43 points and nine rebounds, T-Mac finished on the losing side against the reigning Eastern Conference champion Indiana Pacers.

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers, 2001

Stat Line: 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists vs. Los Angeles Lakers (88-82, L)

After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 Finals, it was time for a rematch for Allen Iverson on Christmas Day in 2001.

Iverson scored a game-high 31 points, but the Lakers stormed back in the fourth quarter to get the 88-82 win.

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks - 2003

Stat Line: 31 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks vs. Sacramento Kings (111-103, W)

Everybody knew Dirk Nowitzki could score, especially by 2003, but check out the all-around stat line he put up the very competitive Sacramento Kings, who were coming off five straight playoff appearances - including the Conference Finals in 2002 - in his Christmas Day debut.

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers - 2003

Stat Line: 34 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals vs. Orlando Magic (101-113, L)

Unlike many of the names on this list, LeBron made his Christmas Day debut as a rookie. It came in an exciting showdown with Tracy McGrady, who led the Magic to a win with 41 points and 11 rebounds.

Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat - 2004

Stat Line: 29 points, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals vs. Los Angeles Lakers (104-102 OT, W)

Although the headlines for Christmas Day in 2004 were all about Shaquille O'Neal making his return to Los Angeles as a member of the Miami Heat, Dwyane Wade made sure everybody took notice with a 29-point, 10-assist double-double.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans - 2015

Stat Line: 29 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks vs. Miami Heat (94-88 OT, L)

Coming off his first playoff appearance in 2015, Davis made his Christmas Day debut in his fourth season.

In typical Davis fashion, he stuffed the stat sheet. However, it wasn't enough to beat the Heat in overtime.

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