Christmas is here! It's the unofficial basketball holiday of the year when the NBA shines bright and spreads that festive cheer!
There's so much NBA action arranged under the tree it's almost impossible to figure out where to even begin.
To help get you set, here's a start-to-finish primer on the biggest things to look out for on Christmas.
Christmas in Canada!
This is the 72nd year of the NBA on Christmas Day in a tradition that dates all the way back to 1947.
And while Celtics at Raptors will mark the 241st Christmas Day game in NBA history, it will the first one ever played in Canada.
There's no place more fitting in 2019 to get the party started than in Toronto. 2019 after all has been Canada's year…
- The first ever NBA title won in Canada
- The most players ever drafted out of a single country outside of the United States
- The most players on opening day rosters from any single country outside of the U.S.
So when Santa rides his sleigh down for the festivities, it's only logical that the first stop this year is the NBA city closest to the North Pole in the country that has caught basketball fever all year long.
Kyle Lowry vs Kemba Walker
Despite the rash of injuries to the Raptors that will most notably keep likely All-Star Pascal Siakam sidelined, there's plenty to get excited about in the day's first tilt between Boston and Toronto.
The Raptors continue to show the heart of a champion in battling through their seemingly endless string of injuries while Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have made significant progress on their individuals journeys to stardom.
But who are we kidding... the headliner in this one is the battle of All-Star point guards in Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry.
Lowry dropped 29 on the Celtics earlier this season though it wasn't enough to overcome Walker's 22 points including 11 in the fourth quarter which sparked Boston's big come from behind victory.
Walker is among the favourites to start in February's All-Star game in Chicago and Lowry is making a bid for his sixth straight All-Star appearance. It's a guard dominated league and these are two of the best currently holding it down in the Eastern Conference.
The world's best snowball fight
Don't bring light powder to a heavily packed snowball fight. At least one in the paint involving Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
There are not two more physically destructive forces in the NBA than Embiid and Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo may not be a traditional centre and yet he's averaging more points in the paint per game than anyone since Shaq .
Embiid is nothing short of a behemoth, a legitimate wrecking ball against which few teams have a true answer. The only person that's been able to consistently stop Embiid is Embiid.
When these two square off, watch out!
Case in point? Last season. I mean… just look at these head-to-head meetings .
- They both nearly went for 30-20 in the first meeting.
- Then Embiid dropped 40-15 in a win that Giannis finished with 52.
- And then Giannis responded with 45-13-6-5 to get revenge in a game Embiid had a 30-point triple-double.
Do. Not. Miss. This. Matchup.
Bernard King on notice
This year marks the 35th anniversary of Bernard King's 60-point game on Christmas which remains to this day the most ever scored on this hoops holiday.
Many have tried, all have failed.
MJ. LeBron. Kobe. KD. Shaq. Iverson. T-Mac. Melo. Westbrook.
Nobody has come within even 10 points of catching King's 60 since he lit the Nets' stockings on fire in 1984 .
James Harden might have something to say about that as the Houston Rockets pay a visit to Golden State. With a beard bigger than Santa himself, Harden is the perfect candidate to stuff the chimney like nobody ever has on Christmas.
LeBron vs Kawhi
The King on Christmas
Nobody does Christmas quite like LeBron James who with a win can tie Dwyane Wade for the most wins ever on the holiday with 10.
James has played on Christmas each of the last 12 seasons and will be playing in his 14th Christmas Day game overall. The only player in NBA history to play more games on Christmas is Kobe Bryant who suited up 16 times on December 25th.
James ranks third all-time in points on Christmas, second in assists, fourth in steals and third in made 3-pointers.
No, but seriously, Lakers-Clippers will be amazing
I've made my list and checked it twice.
- LeBron James might be the greatest player ever.
- Kawhi Leonard might be the best in the world right now.
- Anthony Davis is the favourite for Defensive Player of the Year.
- Paul George is averaging career highs in points and assists per 36.
- National TV Rondo.
- Patrick Beverley wants to play in any and all Reindeer games.
- Kyle Kuzma once tied a Christmas record with six 3-pointers in 2017.
- Lou Williams is the favourite to win Sixth Man of the Year for the 896th consecutive year.
- Unless his teammate Montrezl Harrell steals it from him.
- Two words: Alex. Caruso.
It's like Santa just rolled up to the Staples Center with a shipping container of toys dragged behind his sleigh and dumped them all out for everyone to enjoy.
Jolly Saint Nik
Nobody wheels and deals like jolly old Saint Nik-ola Jokic.
The best passing big in today's game and potentially ever, Jokic spreads cheer and will stuff stockings from any and all angles.
After somewhat of a sluggish start to the season, Jokic is coming on strong with averages of 21.9 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists per game during Denver's seven-game win streak. The Nuggets are the NBA's hottest team and flying under the radar. In a loaded Western Conference stuffed to the brim with title-contending juggernauts, it's the Nuggets who are currently in second place.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.