What Are the NBA’s Longest Winning and Losing Streaks on Christmas Day?

The NBA takes over the airwaves and streaming services once again on Christmas Day with a five-game slate. The action starts at noon Eastern Time and won’t stop until well into Dec. 26 on the East Coast. The league adopted the five-game holiday slate in 2008 and hasn’t looked back. Many fans see Christmas Day as the unofficial opening of the NBA season, so the league may have missed an opportunity to reset its calendar after two pandemic-altered seasons.

The NBA has played games on Christmas since 1947. But what teams have the longest streaks in Christmas Day play? Let’s start with the longest active streaks.

The Miami Heat and New York Knicks own the longest active streaks

The longest current Christmas Day streak in the NBA goes unchallenged in 2021. The Miami Heat have won the last eight times they’ve played on the holiday, including a 111–98 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in 2020.

But Miami is not one of the 10 teams in action this year, so their streak goes on idle. The Heat’s last loss on Christmas was in 2007 when they fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 2009, Miami began a stretch of seven consecutive Christmas Day appearances, winning them all, and then added to their streak with the victory over the Pelicans last year.

On the other end of the spectrum, the New York Knicks host the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 25, looking to end a string of six straight losses on Christmas Day. This is New York’s first holiday appearance since 2018. But the Knicks haven’t given their fans a Christmas victory since 2011. That year, they clipped the Boston Celtics 106–104 when Kevin Garnett’s potential game-tying jumper was offline.

Since then, New York lost three in a row from 2012–14 and got another Christmas turkey (in the bowling sense, at least) from 2016–18.

The good news for Knicks fans is that even with a 2021 Christmas Day loss, they’ll remain years away from the Yuletide record for futility.

The Seattle SuperSonics never won a game on Christmas

As a rookie, Kevin Durant played in the Seattle SuperSonics' last Christmas Day game. Seattle lost, as it did all 11 times it played on the holiday.
As a rookie, Kevin Durant played in the Seattle SuperSonics’ last Christmas Day game. Seattle lost, as it did all 11 times it played on the holiday. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

For a team that wore green, the Seattle SuperSonics never quite got the hang of playing on Christmas Day. In their 41 years in the Emerald City, the Sonics appeared in 11 Christmas games and lost every one of them.

The streak stretched the entirety of the franchise’s stay in Seattle, too. The expansion SuperSonics went to Cincinnati in 1967 and lost to the Royals. In 2007, Seattle played its last Christmas game, visiting their regional rivals in Portland and taking an 89–79 loss on the chin despite 23 points from rookie Kevin Durant.

While the first five losses of the streak came on the road, playing at home didn’t seem to help. The first time Seattle hosted a game on Christmas was in 1977. The Los Angeles Lakers handed them a 111–96 defeat. The only other time the Sonics played at home was the following year. In 1978, the San Diego Clippers rolled to a 20-point halftime lead and hung on for the victory.

But that’s not to say Seattle didn’t have the giving spirit. The SuperSonics made several contributions to NBA history’s longest Christmas Day winning streak.

The Portland Trail Blazers found a winning formula for Christmas

The Portland Trail Blazers and the old Seattle SuperSonics are on opposite sides of the NBA's longest streaks on Christmas Day.
The Portland Trail Blazers and the old Seattle SuperSonics are on opposite sides of the NBA’s longest streaks on Christmas Day. | Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Why Were There No NBA Christmas Day Games in 1998?

The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t lose a game on Christmas Day for 36 years. Granted, they didn’t play every year, but Portland put together a heck of a run from 1972–2007.

Beginning with a win over the SuperSonics on Christmas Day in 1972, Portland ran off 13 consecutive holiday wins. Four of those were at home against Seattle, including the last in 2007. The streak finally ended in 2008 when the Dallas Mavericks came to Rip City and left with a 102–94 win, holding the Trail Blazers to 14 fourth-quarter points for a come-from-behind victory.

The second-longest Christmas Day winning streak belongs to the Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets, now the Wizards, from 1968–77. The team played nine times over the 10 years and won all of them.

Here are the streaks of the teams playing this NBA Christmas:

  • Atlanta Hawks: 2 straight wins (1987, 1989)
  • Boston Celtics: lost in 2020
  • Brooklyn Nets: won in 2020
  • Dallas Mavericks: 2 straight losses (2011, 2020)
  • Golden State Warriors: lost in 2020
  • Los Angeles Lakers: won in 2020
  • Milwaukee Bucks: won in 2020
  • New York Knicks: 6 straight losses (2012–14, 2016–18)
  • Phoenix Suns: won in 2009
  • Utah Jazz: 3 straight wins (1988, 1997, 2018)

This year’s slate begins with the Hawks and Knicks at noon Eastern, followed by Boston at Milwaukee, the Warriors and Suns, Brooklyn at the Lakers, and finally, the Mavericks visiting Utah.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.