The world’s most famous arena has played host to countless memorable moments over the years, but what moments of NBA Christmas Day stand out the most?
NBA League Pass: Sign Up to Unlock Live Off-Market Games (7-Day Free Trial)
The first NBA game to be played on December 25 came in 1947, a year after the start of the NBA, when the New York Knicks beat the Providence Steamrollers at (the old) Madison Square Garden 89–75. While most of us are too young to have seen that game, there have been so many memorable games played at Madison Square Garden in the modern era that we decided to take a look back.
2011: Knicks vs. Celtics
The start of the 2011 season was delayed due to the ongoing lockdown throughout the summer (161 days to be exact), but when it was announced that the season could be salvaged, the league decided to open its season with a series of marquee games on Valentine’s Day. Christmas.
The Celtics had just come off a seven-point loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals last season and were expected to win this game as well. But the Knicks were regaining the momentum of the previous season, their first winning season in more than a decade. A top-notch Carmelo Anthony was ready for the season after his trade from Denver in mid-2010-11, and the Knicks exited. hooping.
Melo finished with 37 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. 17 of Melo’s 37 points came in the fourth quarter, which the Knicks dominated, beating the Celtics 27-17.
“The most important thing for us as a new team, we showed something,” Anthony said. “We came together as a team. Even when we went down, there was no frown. No one was sad. Mentally, everyone was still upbeat, and we worked our way to this victory.”
1985: Knicks vs. Celtics
This was rookie Patrick Ewing’s first Christmas Day game, against none other than the acclaimed Celtics. Ewing would not disappoint, however victory would not be easy. The Knicks trailed 25 points at one stage of the game. At the end of the quarter, the game was tied and the Knicks would finally prevail in double overtime, 113-104.
Ewing would finish the game with 37 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
The 1985-86 Boston team is widely regarded as one of the best of all time, and would win the title that season after amassing a 67-15 record during the regular season. However, they were no match for the new King of New York at Christmas.
1984: Knicks vs. Nets
While New York’s new King shone on Christmas Day 1985, it was another King, Bernard, this time, who set records for both the Knicks franchise and Madison Square Garden the previous season. Although the Knicks lost this game (how knicksy of them) to the Nets, Bernard King put up the best individual scorer performance of all time at Christmas.
King lost 60 points over his former team, and also in the most efficient way. He made 22 of 26 of his free throw attempts and shot 63 percent (19 of 30) from the ground. He didn’t make a single 3-point attempt (This should come as a surprise to those who only know the modern era of basketball!)
King’s MSG scoring record would hold until 2014 when it was broken by Carmelo Anthony.
1986: Knicks v Bulls
Looking back at this game now, one could say that this was the beginning of the Knicks-Bulls rivalry that would last well into the 1990s. It was also the first time that Ewing and Michael Jordan would meet in a game of the NBA.
Jordan was in the midst of an incredible singles season in which he would average 37.1 points per game (the highest of his career), but it was the Knicks’ second-year center who would take advantage in the first of his battles. Ewing finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks and an assist, but the biggest shot he hit that night was the one that was running out of time. After a missed jumper by Trent Tucker, Ewing bounced the shot and threw a short buzzer that gave New York a two-point victory, 86-84.
Jordan had 30 points to accompany six steals, five assists, three rebounds and two blocks, but it wasn’t enough to deny Ewing and the Knicks a well-deserved victory on Christmas Day.