The NBA isn’t like other professional sports in North America; they play on Christmas. Not only do they play, but the games televised on the national holiday signal a focal point for most NBA observers and a day when it becomes appropriate to take stock of the first quarter of the NBA season. With Christmas approaching this week, we thought it would make sense to count down the 10 biggest Christmas Day moments in NBA history, culminating in our top two choices on Christmas Eve 2014.
4. Patrick Ewing game-winning buzzer-beater over Michael Jordan and the Bulls in 1986
The year is 1986, and Michael Jordan is busy taking over the world with his Jumpman logo set to become ubiquitous with the NBA at large. Patrick Ewing, fresh off a Rookie of the Year award and an injury that limited him to just 50 games his rookie year, shows that his ability to produce on Christmas Day hasn’t waned since his freshman NBA campaign.
Jordan didn’t have much help this season, it was before Scottie Pippen or Horace Grant are selected in that summer’s Draft for a Jerry Krause coup. As such, he shot the ball 28 times in the game, scoring 30 and dishing six assists in the process. Even MJ’s bad games are good, and the Bulls lead the Knicks 85-84 with six seconds remaining and the Madison Square Garden crowd holding their collective breath.
The ball is inbounded to shooting guard Travis Tucker, who uses a high Ewing screen to loft a shot from just inside the three-point line. The ball careens hard off the backboard to the left of the iron, and bounces out to Ewing, who has timed his jump perfectly. The young Knicks center is in the perfect place to capitalize, rising up to grab the offensive board and send a shot back before he even lands. The ball bounces once on the front of iron before falling through at the buzzer to give the Knicks an 86-85 win on Christmas Day.
Patrick’s game-winner was the cherry on top of his second consecutive Christmas Day masterpiece. He scored a team-high 28 points on 12-for-29 from the field while snatching a game-high 17 rebounds. Ewing was going against future teammate and enforcer, Charles Oakley, who had 12 rebounds to pace the Bulls, but it was opportune offensive rebound and mid-air putback that made it to our all-time list of Christmas Day games.
But if you’re wondering what MSG sounds like after a game-winning buzzer-beater, that video above does a pretty good job showing those Knicks fans born during the last decade and a half of malaise.
3. Scottie Pippen scores 36 and gets last-second block(s) to beat the Knicks in 1994
People forget how the cloud of Michael Jordan acted as a curtain over everything Scottie Pippen did after MJ’s retirement in the summer of 1993. Pippen’s public meltdown in the playoffs against the Knicks that following postseason — when coach Phil Jackson drew up a last-second shot for Toni Kukoc, Pippen refused to re-enter the game with 1.8 seconds left — earned the enmity of nearly everyone. But Pippen was a monster that year, earning All-Star Game MVP and leading the Bulls in points, steals and assists per game, while finishing second behind Horace Grant in rebounds.
He did the same the following year before MJ came back late in the season. But this time Pippen led a playoff team in points, assists, rebounds and steals per game after his buddy Grant joined the Magic the summer before.
So it’s no surprise Pippen did it all during Chicago’s close, 107-104 win over the Knicks on Christmas Day, 2004.
Pippen scored 36 points (11/28; 3/10 3pt) — to out-score Christmas Day superstar, Patrick Ewing, who had 30 in the loss — including a skyhook with a minute remaining to put the Bulls up three:
Not only that, but Pippen blocked a possible game-tying three-pointer by Hubert Davis from behind, then kept hustling to ALSO block Charles Smith from behind and add a punctuation mark on his X-Mas Day classic:
What are your favorite Christmas Day moments?
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