As the months get colder, NBA basketball continues to heat up.
Christmas Day basketball games have been a staple of the NBA since 1947, when the New York Knicks beat the Providence Steamrollers in the first-ever game on Dec. 25. Who can ever forget seeing those Steamrollers in action?
Now, 74 years later, while so much around the sport has changed, basketball has been a constant force in Christmas Day entertainment. This year, superstars like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo will grace the hardwood for regular-season matchups.
But who is playing on Christmas Day? And how can fans watch the games? Here’s everything you need to know about how to watch hoops as you open your presents:
2021 NBA Christmas Day schedule
12:00 p.m.: Knicks vs. Hawks (ESPN)
Trae Young will try to lead the energetic Hawks core to an away win in the Empire State after taking them to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. The New York Knicks will try to contain the likes of John Collins down low with Julius Randle. It’s a classic battle of young vs. old in the backcourt, as Derrick Rose will play point guard opposite Young.
Notable Player: Kevin Knox (Knicks) — Neither of these teams have played on Christmas Day since 2018, when New York lost 109-95 to Milwaukee. Knox poured on a team-high 21 points for the Knicks that night, and though he’s only scoring a hair over three points a game this year, he seems comfortable playing on the holiday.
2:30 p.m.: Bucks vs. Celtics (ABC)
Giannis Antetokounmpo will lead his defending champion Bucks at home against the Boston Celtics as new Boston head coach Ime Udoka tries to get his bearings in his first year at the helm. Keep an eye on Jayson Tatum, who likely will have the unenviable task of guarding Antetokounmpo at times in the low post.
Notable Player: Khris Middleton (Bucks) — Milwaukee annihilated the Warriors on Christmas last year, 138-99. Though everyone thinks of Giannis, it was actually Middleton who posted a stellar 31 points in that contest.
5:00 p.m.: Suns vs. Warriors (ABC)
Steph Curry is back in action as he tries to nab an away win in Phoenix. Two veteran point guards in Curry and Chris Paul will duke it out in what could end up being a preview of a Western Conference playoff matchup.
Notable Player: Steph Curry (Warriors) — Though it wasn’t a great game by his standards at all, Curry led the Dubs with 19 points on Christmas Day last year in that horrific loss to Milwaukee. He’s posting a much healthier 27.1ppg this season, though, so he’s sure to be a player of focus this time around.
8:00 p.m.: Lakers vs. Nets (ABC and ESPN)
Two of the best players on the planet, Durant and James, will go head-to-head in a matchup between two teams which many predict could be meeting again in the NBA Finals. The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets arguably have the two best rosters in the league, so this game is sure to be a nail-biter.
Notable Player: LeBron James (Lakers) — The King is the NBA’s second-highest scorer of all time on Christmas Day last year with 383 total points, behind only Kobe Bryant (395). James is almost a lock to become the all-time leader this year, all he needs to do is score 13 points.
10:30 p.m.: Jazz vs. Mavericks (ESPN)
Two of the league’s brightest young stars, Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell, will battle in Salt Lake City for the final game of Christmas Day. Both squads are looking to improve upon their results of the 2020-21 season, and this will be a good test. Pay close attention to Rudy Gobert, the Jazz’s defensive stalwart. And Doncic always has the ability to turn any game into must-watch television.
Notable Player: Luka Doncic (Mavericks) — Luka and the Mavs lost to the Lakers on Christmas last year, 138-115. Despite the tough loss, Doncic had one of his best games of the season, posting a 27-7-4 stat line.