NBA Christmas is traditionally one of the biggest days on the league’s calendar, and 2021 is no exception. The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks are in the spotlight, hosting the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, a pair of Western Conference powers collide in the desert as the Golden State Warriors visit the Phoenix Suns.
At the same time, the big names clash when the Brooklyn Nets visit the Los Angeles Lakers. But what teams have won the most on Christmas Day? The other two games feature the Atlanta Hawks at the New York Knicks, while the Utah Jazz host the Dallas Mavericks. One of the clubs in action on Christmas has a chance to extend its NBA record for holiday victories.
NBA Christmas wins by percentage is a different story
There are various ways to look at NBA Christmas wins. One is by volume, the other by winning percentage. That’s where we’ll look first.
Three teams have won more than 70 percent of their games played on Christmas. The first is the Utah Jazz. In seven NBA Christmas appearances, the Jazz are 5–2, a winning percentage of .714. The first of those wins was in 1975 when the team was still in New Orleans. Since moving to Utah, the club is 4–1 and has won its last three appearances. This year marks the first Christmas Day game for the Jazz since 2018.
The Portland Trail Blazers are second on the list at 14–4 (.778). Portland also holds the record for the most consecutive Christmas wins with 13, which began in 1972 and ran through 2007. This Christmas, the Blazers are idle and last played a Dec. 25 game in 2018.
The Miami Heat is the most successful NBA Christmas outfit, with 11 wins in 13 games, a robust .846 winning percentage. Miami’s only losses came in its first Christmas game in 1997 and 2007. The Heat picked up a win last Christmas but aren’t scheduled this year.
The three winningest teams on NBA Christmas includes a tie
Now we get to volume. While 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams have played at least one Christmas Day game, it’s probably not a surprise that the Lakers, Knicks, and Celtics have the most appearances on the big day.
But one of those teams isn’t among the ones with the most victories. The Sacramento Kings and Philadelphia 76ers have the third-most Christmas wins with 18. Only one of those wins by the Kings after their move to the California capital, but they did some damage when they were the Rochester and Cincinnati Royals. The Kings last played on Christmas in 2003, while the 76ers made their most recent appearance in 2019.
The Knicks are second on the list with 21 Christmas wins. While it seems New York plays every Christmas, this year marks their first holiday game since 2018. The Knicks did play annually on Christmas from 1950–87, and their longest gap between appearances was from 2002–08.
But it’s the Lakers who have the most wins on NBA Christmas with 24. They’ve played every Christmas since 1999 and won last year.
Some teams haven’t enjoyed much holiday success
At the other end of the spectrum are the teams that don’t fare well on NBA Christmas. The Toronto Raptors have the worst winning percentage after losing their holiday games in 2001 and 2019. Among teams with at least five appearances, the Detroit Pistons are 10–22 (.313). The good news is they’ve won their last two Christmas Day games. But those were in 2004–05.
The Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder franchise is 6–14 on Christmas. But that .300 winning percentage is skewed by Seattle’s perfectly imperfect 0–11 record. The Thunder were 6–3 during a run of nine consecutive Christmas games from 2010–18.
The Denver Nuggets bottom out this list. Denver is 1–6 on Christmas, a .143 percentage. Their lone win came in 1994 (over Seattle, of course), and they’ve lost five in a row. That includes last year’s loss, but they were given a holiday reprieve in 2021.
The Lakers and Pistons have the second-most total losses on Christmas Day with 22 each. New York has had the most futility on Dec. 25 with 31 defeats.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.